At least one Murdoch's had a win

While Rupert Murdoch is back on the front foot defending new News Corp allegations, Lachlan is wrapping up some tidy investment profits.


If you’re not on Twitter, get on it today. If you’re not following media mogul Rupert Murdoch, do it.

While there are plenty of chief executives and entrepreneurs who post careful, sanitised comments that are probably written by their PR teams, Murdoch treats Twitter as a kind of thought bubble, where unfiltered insights slip from his head onto the net.

There are spelling mistakes, poor syntax, strange abbreviations – it’s as though he can’t get the thoughts out quick enough. Frankly, his communications people must live in terror wondering what he’ll tweet next.

Yesterday, Rupert was on the front foot, posting a string of comments defending his company against the pay-TV piracy allegations that have been levelled at him by the BBC and the Australian Financial Review.

"Seems every competitor and enemy piling on with the lies and libels. So bad, easy to hit back…,” Murdoch tweeted.

But his best was yet to come.

"Enemies many different agendas, but worst old toffs and right wingers and who still want last century’s status quo with their monopolies.”

The irony of an 80-year-old billionaire who owns right-leaning papers like The Australian and the Daily Telegraph slamming "old toffs” and right-wingers is pretty funny.

Rupert might have suffered yet another blow to the reputation of the News Corporation empire, but there was one bit of bright news from the Murdoch clan this week.

Youngest son Lachlan yesterday announced his investment company Illyria had sold its 9.6 per cent stake in regional television group Prime Media – and at a tidy profit.

Lachlan invested in March 2009 when the company’s shares were languishing at 48 cents. Since then, Prime’s fortunes have slowly turned around, thanks to a restructuring and some sharp cost-cutting.

Illyria sold out yesterday at 68 cents, representing a return of 42 per cent. That’s not bad going in any circumstances, but it’s a particularly good result in the media sector where positive returns of any great magnitude have been hard to find, particularly amongst listed media groups.

Over the same period, the ASX 200 is up just over 25 per cent.

Lachlan is still underwater on his Ten Network investment – the shares have fallen from around $1.30 to 82 cents since November 2010 – and clearly that’s going to take a bit of time to change.

But he’s also likely to be starting to feel pretty positive about the fortunes of toy group Funtastic, which Illyria has a 14 per cent share in.

The company is also in the middle of a turnaround, which does seem to be working.

Earlier this week it posted a profit of $5.51 million, up from $366,000 in the previous corresponding period. Impressively, the big profit jump came despite an 11 per cent fall in sales. Cost cutting and inventory control are likely to continue to drive results until consumer confidence starts to turn.

Illyria bought in during December 2008 at around 14 cents, and while Funtastic’s share price got as low as 4 cents in October last year, the shares are now at 17 cents.

It is likely to be some time before Lachlan can get the sort of returns out of Funtastic that he has enjoyed at Prime, but right now the Murdoch men would take any little win they can get.

This article first appeared on SmartCompany on March 30. Republished with permission.

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