Creditors and employees of the Ten network will have the chance today to find out the state of the TV network’s financials when administrator KordaMentha holds its first meeting in Sydney this afternoon — and the key disclosure will be the extent of monies owed to and by companies in the Murdoch family’s orbits, 21st Century Fox and News Corp.
A key question is whether KordaMentha will have the courage to detail the financial payments to Murdoch-related companies since 2012 in any report to creditors. The administrators should be asked if there is any question Ten traded as insolvent before going into administration on June 14. Another question should be whether administrators think action should be taken to recover any payments made by Ten. Those payments could be monies paid to suppliers such as ITV Studios Australia, Endemol Shine, CBS, 21st Century Fox, FremantleMedia or Working Dog, or whether administrators thought some of these payments might have reflected preferential treatment given to some and not all creditors.
Watch for any disclosures (and not in News Corp papers or on Ten News) about the multimillion-dollar transactions with these Murdoch-related companies and their offshoots. Try and find these companies: 21st Century Fox, Fox Studios, Fox TV, Fox News, the 50% owned Endemol Shine, the 39% owned Sky in the UK, Illyria (Lachlan Murdoch’s personal company), News Corp, Foxtel, Fox Sports Australia, Sky News (Australian News Channel) and MCN (the 75% owned Foxtel ad sales arm that is 25% owned by Ten).
Saturday’s Weekend Australian reported about meetings KordaMentha had with Ten’s board, management and others, and the fees charged to Ten:
“Details of 51 meetings held by staff at KordaMentha as part of ‘Project X’, including 22 held by partner and lead Ten administrator Mark Korda, are revealed in an updated declaration of independence, relevant relationships and indemnities sent to creditors on Thursday night.”
The report was given to The Australian because News Corp is clearly a creditor — but the key is how many parts of News and Fox will be named by KordaMentha, not the number of meetings, which is a red herring. And the sums will be large, if disclosures made back in the 2012 and 2013 annual reports from Ten are any guide.
For example, the 2013 report reveals that because of Lachlan Murdoch’s presence on the Ten board, disclosure had to be made of related-party dealings. These show that Shine (now Endemol Shine) and News Corp (which then owned 20th Century Fox — it was renamed 21st Century Fox on the split on June 30, 2013) were paid more than $201 million across 2011-12 ($125.4 million) and 2012-13 ($76.08 million) in “program rights” and “other expenses”. Some payments in 2012-13 amount went to Fairfax Media, of which Ten director Jack Cowin was also a director, for payments from July 19 to August 31 — in other words a very small amount, especially when compared to the overwhelming bulk of the $201 million paid to the Murdch companies. Ten’s total TV revenue for both years was $1.357 billion, so the Murdoch payments absorbed nearly 15% of that.
Further, Lachlan Murdoch’s company Illyria was paid $102,000 for a director’s fee (of Ten) for 2012 and 2013 for Siobhan McKenna (who resigned from the Ten board in March without explanation and its now a senior executive at News Corp Australia). Furthermore, the 2013 report reveals that the sum of $2.1 million was paid to Illyria on the basis:
“‘… $1,300,000 related to the services of Mr LK Murdoch as Interim Chief Executive Officer. The remaining $800,000 relates to professional services provided to the Company by employees of Illyria Pty Limited in relation to the Operating and Strategic Review, Cost Reduction Program, and on-going operational support. Fees for employee services were based on the direct salary costs of those employees to Illyria Pty Limited.”
Ten reported a bottom line loss (including impairments) of $284 million for 2013 and a loss of $12.8 million for 2012 — all while Lachlan Murdoch was either interim CEO or chairman of the company, so that $2.1 million paid to Illyria was a waste of money — a characteristic of Ten under the domination of Murdoch and his fellow billionaires James Packer, Gina Rinehart and Bruce Gordon.