Today in Media Files, a new bid for Fairfax from private equity firm TPG, and a daily news wrap has had a forced brand redesign.

A new bid for Fairfax. You can depend on private equity buyers to be a bunch of cheeseparing chiselers to the last. Last week, TPG and its Ontario Teachers Fund partner offered 95 cents cash per share for Fairfax Media’s Domain property website, plus The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Australian Financial Review, the websites, digital and the smaller businesses. The sharks didn’t want the Fairfax community and regional papers, nor the radio business (mostly AM talkback kings, 2GB in Sydney and 3AW in Melbourne), New Zealand newspapers and the Stan streaming video business owned with Nine Entertainment. 

TPG then briefed the media that, all up the 95 cents cash and the bits left behind were worth around $1.25 a share to Fairfax shareholders in the sort of creative figuring that would have drawn a “please explain” if it had been made in a formal document without accompanying valuations. And TPG and its Canadian mate wanted its purchases to be debt free (Fairfax had more than $240 million in debt at December 31). If TPG and its partner get control of Fairfax, that low-debt figure won’t last; it will be added to very quickly in the now typical private equity business model, regardless of the health of the underlying businesses.

So what do we see announced this morning? Why, a bid for all of Fairfax at $1.20 each — five cents less than the briefed value from last week. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t see anything that suggested Fairfax lost value last week, did you? The new price values the company at $2.7 billion add in the debt and its total value if close to $3 billion. TPG owns about 4.7% of Fairfax Media.

The Fairfax board Monday morning said it was reviewing the “revised, indicative, preliminary and non-binding” proposal and would update shareholders when it had been fully assessed. Regardless of the proposal, Fairfax is continuing to progress the preparation for its spin-off and listing of the Domain business later this year, the company said. 

Fairfax said the new proposal was subject to a number of conditions, including due diligence, shareholder approval and obtaining requisite regulatory approvals.

The directors said there was no certainty to the offer, what the terms of such an offer would be, or whether there would be a recommendation by the board. Fairfax shares were trading around $1.04 mark before news of TPG’s stake became public in March and closed at $1.07 a share on Friday, or around $2.46 billion. At 11.45am, Fairfax shares were up more than 7% at $11.47 after touching a high of $11.16. That’s a modest reaction to the $1.20 a share offer and an indication that investors do not see a competitor emerging, but also don’t expect TPG to win the day without offering a lot more. — Glenn Dyer

Spot the difference. One of the newer morning digest emails in Australia has been forced to redesign its logo because of its similarity to an American newsletter. As Crikey pointed out back in March, when The Squiz launched, it bore a striking resemblance to theSkimm — notably with a sassy young lady in the logo, a quote of the day at the top and a conversational tone. At the time, founder Claire Kimball told Crikey her newsletter was unique and not based on theSkimm. But in a note to readers yesterday, it sounds like theSkimm didn’t feel the same:

“Not long after starting The Squiz, we got an email from a terrific daily news email targeted at young American women called theSkimm. They were concerned our logo and materials were too close to theirs. We didn’t think they were, but as a gesture of goodwill we decided to make some changes … We loved the original Ms Squiz and we’re sad to see her go, but onwards and upwards.”

Kimball told Crikey this morning she did not agree the branding and format were too similar to those of theSkimm. She said her subscribers had quadrupled in the past month.

“In the end it was my choice to spend my energy building The Squiz instead of with lawyers. As a brand that is just two months I thought the best way through was to make the changes,” she said.

The website and newsletter format have both been updated.

Rake lawyer takes on journalist’s case. A journalist charged with intimidation and offensive behaviour over his news gathering will be represented by colourful Sydney barrister Charles Waterstreet in court this week. Waterstreet, the inspiration for the the character of Cleaver Greene in TV show Rake, put out a press release confirming the representation. Cristian King was charged after running an editorial in LatteLife Wingecarribee, a Southern Highlands paper, claiming a local real estate agent had been trading without a property certificate for nine months. He has pleaded not guilty to the three charges, and will appear in Moss Vale Local Court on Thursday.

The revolving door. Walkley-award winning ABC sports broadcaster Peter Wilkins is retiring, as reported by The Australian today. Wilko used the exclusive interview with The Oz to lament the “philosophy change” at the ABC when it comes to sport coverage over his 37 years at the public broadcaster.

“It’s disappointing that the ABC has surrendered that intrinsic part of the Australian culture, for both price and philosophical reasons. When I started at the ABC in 1980, the national broadcaster covered everything on TV and did it well, from World Cups to surf carnivals,” he said.

Over in the corporate offices at the ABC, a new role of chief digital and information officer was announced on Friday. TVNZ’s Helen Clifton has been given the job, and will start in September. Clifton has also previously worked for Al Jazeera and LWT Granata in London.

News Corp redundancies. Photographers at News Corp have started to leave the company after last month’s announcement it would drastically cut photographer numbers and production desks to cut costs.

It’s believed about 14 photographers finished up at the Courier Mail in Brisbane last week, while some of the 11 to go from The Advertiser in Adelaide also left last week. Photographers have not yet heard how many will go from the Herald Sun in Melbourne, but some staff think it could be as many as 20. Under News Corp’s plan, a core group of photographers will remain, while the newspapers will rely more heavily on agency provider Australian Associated Press to supply photos for the papers.

News Corp Australia did not respond to Crikey‘s request for comment by deadline.

What would Trump think? Donald Trump (according to his tweets) watches TV program ratings as closely as he watched his fingers — bigley so. That goes back to his time hosting The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice. What he doesn’t quite understand is the message the ratings send — that falling ratings are bad for programs. His last season finale of Celebrity Apprentice in 2015 attracted about 6.1 million viewers, lower than the average for the 2014-15 season of 7.6 million. In fact, that final season was the 67th most watched program on US free to air TV. That was down from the 2008 finale which averaged 12.1 million. He still refuses to believe or understand the messages from those numbers, preferring to believe he was a winner. 

So what will he make of the early figures for the latest ep of NBC’s Saturday Night Live (SNL) which saw comedian Melissa McCarthy’s return as White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer (and Alex Baldwin as Donald Trump)? It averaged 10.3 million viewers in the overnights, making it the best May episode ever for the series (May is a vital month for US TV networks and programs — it is one of four so-called sweeps months (February, May, July and November) which help set ad rates for the various programs and determine their success or failure. Sweeps are a sort-of souped up version of the everyday ratings process and last for the month.

Glenn Dyer’s TV Ratings. Another weak night for Masterchef Australia last night. It could only average 987,000 national viewers — down from the previous Sunday’s 1 million for the last blind audition (and Delta Goodrem got the show plenty of publicity for some tough comments on one act). House Rules added more than 10% of the previous week’s audience of just over 1.33 million,  while The Voice added just 37,000 and MCA lost 22,000. The key to House Rules’ season improvement is the new UK judge. Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, who is a master of the polite put down, brutally delivered. He is the kind of ratings gold that Masterchef and The Voice now lack. He is not a nasty for nasty’s sake — his criticisms have credibility, which is what these programs need in the “black hat” judge.

On Insiders Barrie Cassidy showed why he and Laurie Oakes are by far the best political interviewers in the country — Treasurer Scott Morrison tried to slip the knife into Baz by saying Cassidy had worked for Keating — Baz just brushed that aside by pointing out that he hadn’t (he worked for Bob Hawke as PM) and Morrison, realising he’d stuffed up, couldn’t swallow his cheap gibe fast enough.

In regional markets Seven News was tops with 582,000, followed by House Rules with 562,000, then Nine/NBN News (6.30pm), 492,000, The Voice with 482,000 and Nine News was fifth with 476,000. — Read the rest on the Crikey website

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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