There has been a truckload of commentary in the non-Murdoch press about James Murdoch’s ascension to the third most senior position at News Corporation, but one little explored angle is the role of Lachlan Murdoch and Australia.
Firstly, you’ve got to love the irony of Rupert appointing Les Hinton, a former cadet reporter from his original newspaper, The News in Adelaide, to be CEO of Dow Jones and Robert Thompson, who in 1979 started on the paper Sir Keith Murdoch made famous, The Herald in Melbourne, to edit The Wall Street Journal.
Hinton is literally Murdoch’s longest serving newspaper executive so you can’t quibble with his credentials. However, the appointment was partly done to clear the way for James Murdoch, who has never worked on a newspaper in his life, to run the world’s most powerful and controversial newspaper empire – News International in London.
Whilst the likes of BSkyB, Sky Italia and STAR TV will have their own CEOs, James will be on his own making the big operational decision on the British newspapers.
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It would make sense to run News Corp globally down product lines – film, Pay-TV, free to air television, newspapers, book publishing and inserts – but this is being avoided to give James Murdoch further training to replace his famous father.
Whilst Rupert and Les Hinton should run The Wall Street Journal out of New York, why isn’t Australia included in James Murdoch’s Asian brief? Instead, Australia will be the only geographic operation not directly run by a Murdoch. But for how long?
Could it be that News Ltd is about to seize control of James Packer’s Consolidated Media Holdings, as Mark Day flagged last week and Neil Chenoweth intimated at in The Weekend AFR. I reckon it’s on and Day’s speculation of a takeover was a kite flying exercise ahead of a more palatable back door float of News’ Australian operations into CMH with Lachlan Murdoch at the helm as chairman. The delay in announcing this is all about the change of government and this is where Labor’s media policy that wasn’t gets very suspicious.
Finally, Rupert really shouldn’t have much authority to do all this shuffling. This ASX announcement from last week notes that a maximum of 50.7 million new non-voting shares will be issued to Dow Jones shareholders when the deal closes later this month.
When combined with the family’s sale of 17.56 million non-voting shares for $US354.76 million on November 15 – plus on-going sales since then including another 25,000 reported this morning – the family will shortly fall to a record low of almost 10%. How a 10% shareholding can turn a 34-year-old kid into Britain’s most powerful man is something for all fans of democracy to wonder.
The Mayne Report press room section has audio files of the three interviews Stephen Mayne did on ABC Radio about James Murdoch on Friday. There’ll be more in a farewell chat with Virginia Trioli on 702 ABC Sydney at 9.40am tomorrow morning.