Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Is Rupert Murdoch A Genocidal Tyrant?

The question is provoked by his own words:
Speaking publicly for the first time about his $6 billion purchase Mr Murdoch said he was determined to get his hands on a company that would provide such a perfect fit for his global media empire.

"That's why we put such a premium on its value and why I spent the better part of the past three months enduring criticism normally levelled at some sought of genocidal tyrant," he said.
Well, there are up to a million Iraqis dead now as a result of a war that Murdoch has enabled and supported every step of the way. Huge swathes of the Iraqi population are homeless as the population divides along ethnic lines, again as a result of a Murdoch's war.

So "genocidal" may very well fit. But "tyrant"? Well, let his business adversaries and former employees answer that one!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

It Aint Over Till It's Over

Murdoch's WSJ takeover may not be as smooth as was widely reported. A single Bancroft family member with firmly gritted teeth could put the whole thing on hold for a very long time. This little matter needs to be handled carefully:
Dow Jones & Co Inc said on Thursday it was seeking a correction on a Wall Street Journal story on board director Christopher Bancroft, in the first public spat over the newspaper's reporting of Rupert Murdoch's buyout offer.

The Journal and its owner, Dow Jones, are in a dispute over whether the company was considering paying the legal fees of Bancroft to get further support for the buyout by Murdoch's News Corp (NWSa.N: Quote, Profile, Research).

The story, published in the Thursday edition of the newspaper, said the payment would be in exchange for Bancroft not using a trust he oversees to block the sale.

"Dow Jones is asking for a correction," said a Dow Jones spokeswoman.

She would not specify what was wrong.

A spokesman for the Journal said the newspaper had no plans to run a correction.
This little spat should be short-lived, however. Every man has his price, and the Bancrofts are self-evidently immoral toads:
In a memo sent to his business partner, Bruce Leadbetter, and attorney Pat Long, Bancroft said Dow Jones's payment of legal and advisory fees would ensure the family receives the same amount of money for its shares as other investors.

"What I want for my constituencies regarding the News Corp offer to merge with Dow Jones is: 1. The Wall Street Journal has the best editorial protection negotiable; 2. My family receives the same net for the Dow Jones Class B shares as the Dow Jones 'A' common shares received," he said in the letter seen by Reuters.

If Murdoch helps settle the fees, Bancroft said he would be willing to abstain from voting as as trustee.

“Jeez, I’d love to own that.”

How Murdoch stalked Dow:
In September 2005, Steginsky was in Murdoch’s office. On a coffee table sat a copy of The Wall Street Journal. The media tycoon picked it up, scanned the front page and said simply: “Jeez, I’d love to own that.” Steginsky was well aware that the support of the Bancrofts was key. By coincidence, he knew one of the family members, William Cox, who had been predicting that the company could be facing hard times.

Steginsky suggested he might give Cox a call to test the waters. Murdoch agreed.

Within the following couple of months, Steginsky and Cox met – first in Princeton, then in New York. The idea of a News Corporation takeover was gently floated. Cox was definitely interested.

The pursuit continued to Rome, where Cox and his wife Beatrice had a flat. Steginsky flew there and booked himself a room at the Hotel de Russie between the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo. The five-star hotel, where an executive single room costs €480 (£323) a night, was just across the road from the Coxes’ flat.

Over three days, Steginsky shuttled back and forth between the hotel and the flat. With the Coxes, he discussed the merits of a takeover. More importantly, he gained a detailed insight into the various arms of the controlling family – or more accurately, the families: the Bancrofts, Hills and Coxes – who held sway over Dow Jones.

Stegisnky flew to Prague. There, at the airport, he met Elisabeth Goth Chelberg, William Cox’s cousin, a champion horsewoman who divides her time between Kentucky and the Czech Republic. They spoke for about an hour.

For more than a year, Steginsky pursued his quiet campaign, approaching members of the Bancroft clan to gauge their support.

Some were receptive: Michael Hill, an environmental scientist living in Boston, had written a letter in 2005 urging that the family should actively try to revive Dow Jones.

“The system is broken and we all have to put our heads together to fix it,” the letter said.

Others refused to countenance the idea of a takeover. Leslie Hill, a retired airline pilot, was contacted by phone. She shouted that the family did not want to sell and abruptly hung up.

Steginsky also received a firm rebuff from Michael Elefante, a Dow Jones director and a trustee for some older Bancroft family members. Leslie Hill’s mother, Jane Cox MacElree, was opposed to a sale “at any price”.

By the spring of this year, Murdoch was ready to move.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

So You Want To Marry A Billionaire?

Forbes looks at Wives Of The Billionaires:
Given the slavish work habits of many billionaires, it is not surprising that several met their mates in the office.
Related stories: The World's Greenest Billionaires and Wedded To Murdoch (video).

Saint Nick Sits On The WSJ Board

So Who Is On That New 'WSJ' Board To 'Buffer' Murdoch? Well, one member is Nicholas Negroponte, who just happens to be the younger borther of John Negroponte, who was member of Yale's Psi Upsilon fraternity along with Bush's Uncle Bucky.

And now it turns out that News Corp donated $2.5 million to Nicholas Negroponte's charity foundation:
News Corp.'s donation now raises issues over Negroponte's objectivity, a journalism expert said.

"If in fact Nicholas' foundation is receiving money from News Corp., that creates the perception and, quite possibly, the reality of a conflict," said Louis Ureneck, chairman of the journalism department at Boston University.

"Is a person truly independent if a decision he makes puts at risk a significant grant to his foundation? It strikes me that there is a conflict," Ureneck added.

It was not immediately clear if members of Dow Jones's controlling Bancroft family, who negotiated and agreed upon the structure of the independent board, were aware of the payment.
Meanwhile, there's more speculation about who'll take over News Corp when the old man dies. I think a major break-up of the monopoly would be in everybody's best interests.