If Murdoch is considering selling his papers, who would buy them?


10:30 am - March 5th 2012

by Tim Fenton    


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Rupert Murdoch made his name running newspapers. He still clearly retains great affection for titles like the Sun, which he took over back in 1969.

But his more upmarket Times and Sunday Times are losing serious amounts of money and some 70% of News Corp’s money now comes from other sources.

So who is talking about selling off the Times and Sun titles? Well, Murdoch’s headquarters troops in New York are.

Rival news provider Bloomberg has the story, citing Chief Operating Officer (COO) Chase Carey having talks about two options: to separate the newspaper unit from the rest of News Corp – or outright sale.

Talk of newspaper selloffs also made the news at Deadline Hollywood, as they pointed out that the departure of Murdoch Junior from News International could be a sign that the troubled UK titles could be offloaded.

It would make sense, with the hacking saga now being joined by accusations of bribing the Police and computers being routinely accessed by illegal means.

But who might buy? The Sun, now a seven day operation, is at present profitable and will be so for some years, despite gradual falls in circulation and cost pressures on journalism, and so there should be competition to get hold of the title.

But the Times and Sunday Times would be a challenge, with few Russian oligarchs in the wings, and only the readership to play for.

It’s entirely possible that the Times and ST could be bought just for the name, and subsumed into another upmarket title, maybe the Telegraph, though the Guardian could not be excluded – it would depend on the price.

At the front of the queue for the Sun would be Richard “Dirty” Desmond, who has offered to buy before, and that will fill the hacks with dread. Desmond is widely considered the worst proprietor in modern times, Robert Maxwell included.

But if Mudoch was willing to close the Screws, he will have no trouble offloading the red tops. It would then park the criminality outside the building.

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About the author
Tim is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He blogs more frequently at Zelo Street
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Reader comments


As print seems in its death throes, perhaps the model could be the same as for Scotland’s Caledonian Mercury, which is run and owned by former print journalists.

It’s entirely possible that the Times and ST could be bought just for the name, and subsumed into another upmarket title, maybe the Telegraph, though the Guardian could not be excluded – it would depend on the price.

The Guardian’s not exactly flush these days, especially since its punt on Emap went tits up.

Any other paper would be stupid to buy these papers if Mr Murdoch wants to sell them at full operating value.
The competitors can just wait for them to die and then the readers will migrate to the remaining existing papers anyway.

But for 100 £ or so, maybe somebody will buy them for the name.

4. Chaise Guevara

Oh, ok, I’ll give him a tenner for them.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think Rupert Murdoch will ever sell the Times or the Sun. He’s a newspapers man, (as in, he’s just opened a new newspaper at the time when the fortunes of the industry are down in the dumps) and he’ll quite cheerfully cross-subsidise a loss-making newspaper with a profitable satellite broadcasting network.

My evidence for that is that this is precisely what he’s been doing for the last 25 years. When was the Times last profitable anyway? It was hugely loss-making when Murdoch bought it, and I don’t think it’s ever made him money. Its value to him is part reputational (the Times of London, newspaper of record) and partly just because he likes owning newspapers.

That’s not a bad thing – the best proprietor the Telegraph ever had was Conrad Black, someone who just loved owning newspapers for their own sake, and not as a platform for his own views, or a cause.

Luckily he will be dead soon.

Murdoch keeps his newspapers because they still have political clout. His papers are read by a variety of voters. Labour and tory. That is not the case with papers likeThe Mirror or the Telegraph which preach to the converted.

He also uses them to cross promote other parts of his Empire. His papers heavily promoted Sky, which gave him a huge advantage over his rivals. They also act as attack dogs against his competitors. The BBC is attacked almost daily.

And we now know that he used them to go after anyone who he thought may be a problem to his business interests. Politicians, etc etc. With a little help from the police.

Great article. Can we now call Times journalists ‘Murdoch benefit claimants’? For all they talk about the superiority of the free market they’ve been on (admittedly not public) welfare for years…

For what it’s worth, I don’t think Rupert Murdoch will ever sell the Times or the Sun.

True in itself, but on the other hand *he doesn’t own them*. They’re owned by News Corp, which he’s only a minority shareholder in.

While the board and shareholders have been happy in the past to do whatever Rupe says, the combination of a) the police bribery scandal and corresponding US Corrupt Foreign Practices Act investigation; b) the loss of print media’s power to set the national agenda in the way it did 20 years ago; c) the fact that even the tabloids are no longer rabidly profitable – could all work to change this.

Federal racketeering charges are very much *not* something you want hanging over the head of your US-based media company…

@5 “he’ll quite cheerfully cross-subsidise a loss-making newspaper with a profitable satellite broadcasting network. My evidence for that is that this is precisely what he’s been doing for the last 25 years.”

I’m fairly sure he hasn’t. BSkyB only started making an annual profit around 5 years ago, and I’m pretty sure it’s still a long way from making an overall profit. Mind you, certainly during its early years, Sky was subsidised by the profits from Murdoch’s newspapers – so it would be only fair to return to the favour now.

But no, I can’t see him selling them either – Murdoch long since stopped caring about whether his British operations make money (he’d have abandoned Sky in the early 90s if he did). He’s only interested in the political power he can flex in the UK, subsidising any financial losses with the money he makes in the US. However unprofitable it may be, the Times is still a crucially influential newspaper. He won’t sell it unless he’s forced to – and if the rest of NewsCorp were to sell the title despite his objections, then I expect he’d be the one to buy it off them.


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