As it emerges from scandal, News Corp. looks to buy again
News Corp. is starting to look like its old self again. The media conglomerate, which had been on its heels for more than a year because of the phone hacking scandal in Britain, is looking to make acquisitions. First on the list could be a 49 percent stake in the Yes Network in New York, a purchase that could aid in the formation of a new nationwide sports network to compete with ESPN.
News Corp.’s stock has reached highs as the company prepares to transfer its underperforming publishing assets, including newspapers like The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, into a separate publicly traded entity.
One of the crucial factors in the decision was that the split would allow Rupert Murdoch, the company’s chairman and chief executive, to buy into the businesses he loves without upsetting investors who are more interested in cable and broadcast. Potential targets include the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and more education companies.
“Rupert has his mojo back,” said Todd Juenger, a media analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein. “The stock is up, investors are happy with the company’s recent decisions.”
“He is definitely rubbing his hands together,” a person with knowledge of News Corp.’s dealmaking discussions said of Murdoch. In the past several weeks, Murdoch has exuded a satisfaction and sure-footedness that people close to the company said they had not seen since before Murdoch’s British newspaper unit became embroiled in a phone hacking scandal. That is in part because hacking has been overtaken in the press by an unfolding scandal at the British Broadcasting Corp.
The BBC, which Murdoch and his son James have frequently criticized, is accused of canceling a news program’s segment about serial child molesting said to have been committed by longtime host Jimmy Savile and broadcasting false reports of pedophilia about a member of Margaret Thatcher’s administration.
People close to Murdoch said he considered the BBC scandal karmic justice for months of negative coverage of News Corp., and he has provided almost daily commentary via Twitter.
“BBC getting into deeper mess,” he wrote on Nov. 10. “After Savile scandal, now prominent news program falsely names senior pol as pedophile.”
And the BBC scandal touches another Murdoch rival — The New York Times, whose parent company’s new chief executive, Mark Thompson, served as director general at the BBC. Thompson’s replacement at the BBC, George Entwistle, resigned Nov. 11 after just 54 days on the job.