The question is, what’s more valuable to the Murdoch clan: power or money?
I’d follow the money every time. Oh, Dad, cares about power, for sure. He cares about his legacy, too. Given his time left on this earth, I’d say there’s no time to repair that legacy in journalistic and political terms. If he also leaves a company worth nothing to his heirs, then he has no tangible legacy. That is surely what his heirs care most about — most do: money.
So I wonder whether News Corp. (NASDAQ:NWS) will have to get out of the news business to save the business of News Corp. For it’s not so bad to be rapacious when you’re in the entertainment business.
You might say that Rupert would have his newspapers pried from his dead hands and that might well be the case. But know well that he is not loyal to media. I used to work for TV Guide. He loved magazines then. Things turned sour. He got rid of them. He worked his ass off to get satellite TV in the US. When he had it, it turned out to be inconvenient; he got rid of it. When he had a choice of owning TV stations or newspapers in Boston and Chicago, there went the papers.
So I could see stockholders and managers and heirs pressure Murdoch to get rid of his news properties.
Only problem is, who’d want them? The News of the World is dead. The Sun has been eclipsed by the Daily Mail in the online and global future. Murdoch gave up on the future for The Times of London when he built his wall around it. But that also means it’s not so valuable a bully pulpit anymore, what with only 100k online readers versus the enemy Guardian’s tens of millions. The New York Post, on which he loses tens of millions of dollars a year just as the price of a bully pulpit, would die, unless there’s an ego and bank account even bigger than Rupert’s to resurrect it once again. He sold his other pulpit, The Standard. Fox News? Ah, that’s interesting. Maybe we should all gang together on Kickstarter and buy it, eh? There’d be a market for that thing and maybe that’d be good for the country. Sky News? He’d already sacrificed that to get BSkyB (see: money trumps power). The Australian papers? A fine spun-off gift for Lachlan, I’d say.
Oops. I forgot the Wall Street Journal on which Rupert overspent mightily. You want to leave a legacy, Rupert: Make it the beneficiary of the Murdoch Trust (just as the Guardian is to be sustained in perpetuity by its Scott Trust).
And what’s left? A gigantic, profitable media conglomerate and an inheritance for the Murdoch clan.