Rupert Murdoch's Media Tour Highlights: 'I'll Head the Board Until They Bury Me'
News Corp. chairman makes the TV business network rounds Thursday and sounds off about whether any of his children will one day lead the company, whether the hacking scandal caused the split, and the Supreme Court's healthcare ruling.
Rupert Murdoch is known to have strong opinions, and has aired them on Twitter among other venues, but for a media baron, he's always been a tad shy when it comes to appearing on TV news shows. That changed today after his News Corp. announced it was going ahead with plans to split up into an entertainment/media business and a publishing business. Now he's on a media tour, trumpeting the big news and even speaking to competitors at Bloomberg and CNBC.
Here's a few highlights of what he said today.
Murdoch's fitness to lead and succession were big topics. Speaking on the Fox Business Network, he addressed whether his children will play an expanded role going forward:
“They have to earn it and they have to want it. Lachlan is very happy running his own businesses in Australia and loves living there so we will see. I think that’s highly unlikely.”
Murdoch was asked similar questions in other media appearances. As for his other children, he said that previous speculation about James taking his place happened because he was the only one of the children at the company at the time. Murdoch resists the characterization that James has been damaged by the hacking scandal, but hints that his daughter could be in the running to succeed him. "Now my daughter Elizabeth is involved," he told CNBC but also cautioned that he's not going anywhere soon:
"I'll head the board until they bury me... i'm in great shape, and, obviously, if I'm lucky enough to live a long time, a very long time, there will be a time when I'll slow down mentally, and i'll have to get out."
Analysts and investors have been arguing for a split for some time. But Murdoch says it made no difference to him. On Bloomberg Television, he said:
“I shouldn’t say this. I respect the analysts, but they dumped on me when I started Fox News. They dumped on me when I bought The Sun in London. I could go on. The analysts took our share prices down. I'm not too carried away about what they say. Although, I am happy to have them saying nice things at the moment.”
On the other hand, he did speak highly of another media mogul, Barry Diller, who helped show him that a split might be in the cards. Speaking on CNBC...
"Look what's happened in a smaller way, IAC. Great value has been added without necessarily great change in operations. Barry Diller has actually managed to create some shareholder value there from that split...that was a Diller premium."
On the Fox Business Network, host Neil Cavuto wasn't shy about asking Murdoch whether the hacking scandal prompted the split. Murdoch got defensive:
“It’s got nothing to do with that at all. At. All. This is not in reaction; this is looking forward to what is best for our companies and what’s best for our shareholders."
Then again, the hacking fallout does seem to have ebbed his appetite for pursuing a bid for BSkyB. In the same Fox interview, he addressed a BSkyB bid:
“No, I think we have moved on in our own thinking from that. There were billions and billions of dollars and if Britain didn’t want them we have good places to put them here. I am much more bullish on America than I am about England.”
Murdoch is bullish on America, but doesn't like what just happened at the Supreme Court in the health care ruling. Justice John Roberts stole some media airspace from Murdoch today, and the News. Corp chairman jokes about the timing. As for his straight opinion about the ruling, Murdoch acknowledges it as a victory for Obama, and slips into "we" when speaking on Fox Business about what's going to happen next:
“No we are not that good at planning it. We had come to the decision we would have a board meeting and see if they agreed to pursue this option. We wanted to do it this week. We thought on a Friday was bad; any bad news gets reported on a Saturday...[The health care ruling] will clearly be seen as a victory for the President. They will all be doing high-fives in the White House. On the other hand, every poll shows it’s not a popular bill, so we will go into the election and fight over it there I imagine.”
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