A News Corp. spokesperson says reports that it is in early talks to purchase the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune are “wholly inaccurate.”
Despite that denial, the L.A. Times is sticking by its story that is based on interviews with two top News Corp. executives and others familiar with the potential deal. That’s a wise choice.
News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch is the last of the print media barons. The acquisition of the papers put into bankruptcy by real estate maven Sam Zell would be a fitting capstone to the career of the 81-year-old Australia native following his audacious $5B Dow Jones & Co. blockbuster deal, which put the Wall Street Journal into his hands.
Rupe’s fear of being sanctioned by the British Government in the aftermath of the U.K. hacking scandal is largely behind him—though trials of trusted lieutenants like Rebekah Brooks --will offer juicy tidbits to fans of News Corp. A U.K. sanction could have led to News Corp. headaches with the U.S. Justice Dept.
You can bet Murdoch will be watching tonight’s debate and rooting for Mitt Romney. Murdoch, on Twitter and the WSJ editorial page, has been openly cheering for Mitt. That’s for good reason. The cross-ownership rule of the Federal Communications Commission is a hurdle for News Corp. to clear before gobbling up the Times and Trib. News Corp. owns two TV stations in Los Angeles and Chicago.
The rule, however, won’t be such a high hurdle for Rupe with a buddy in the White House and a sympathetic Republican Congress, which gets tender treatment on News Corp.’s Fox News. In 1993, Murdoch was able to re-purchase the New York Post, which Teddy Kennedy forced him to divest—along with the Boston Herald—five years earlier due to cross-ownership. With unlikely political allies such as New York’s Mario Cuomo, Murdoch was able to pick up the Post, which was slated for shutdown due to its lousy financials. The Post still loses an estimated $25M a year, but provides an outsized mega-phone for Rupert in the nation’s No. 1 media market. Also, the Post’s deficit is small potatoes in the $30B News Corp. empire.
The acquisition of the Times and Trib. would provide much needed heft to News Corp.’s soon-to-be spun-off newspaper group, which features the Sun, Times of London, WSJ, Post and assorted Aussie papers.
The re-election of Barack Obama is Murdoch’s nightmare. There’s no way President Obama would stand for Murdochian control of his Chicago hometown paper. Obama will return to Chicago some day.