Murdoch birthday no reason for cheer
AS RUPERT MURDOCH prepares to celebrate his 81st birthday this weekend, his annus horribilus in Britain drags on.
AS RUPERT MURDOCH prepares to celebrate his 81st birthday this weekend, his annus horribilus in Britain drags on.On one side of the Atlantic, the British government's Leveson inquiry into press standards continues to score hits on News Corp. A competitor and protaganist, London's The Guardian newspaper has published every salacious detail of the dozens of arrests of News International journalists and executives over phone hacking at the now closed News of the World and alleged bribery of public officials by The Sun.In three related inquiries, the British police are now investigating: payments to police officers, phone hacking, and computer hacking. Then there's the $200 million paid out so far in legal fees and civil settlements to at least 60 hacking victims a figure expected to more than double.On the other side of the pond, News Corp faces multiple class actions in US courts related to the hacking revelations. And the FBI is now investigating allegations of bribery at a former News Corp billboard company in Russia - according to the company's own leading masthead, The Wall Street Journal, and potential phone hacking of September 11 victims. In addition, the FBI is closely watching the UK inquiry.The scandal has not touched the group's Australian operations, but that has not stopped local News Corp critic, the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, from questioning News Corp director Sir Rod Eddington and demanding an overhaul of the board just this week.The scandal has also fuelled the push for News to spin off its global publishing division, with Chase Carey, chief operating officer, acknowledging that a spin-off of the publishing arm would boost the share price.His remarks, made to a Deutsche Bank conference in Florida, were interpreted by some in the market as confirmation the option was now under consideration within the company. The news, along with son James Murdoch's resignation from News International a day later, drove a brief share price run for News Corp.One analyst said a split was expected to boost the overall group's value by about 12 per cent, or $5.5 billion - it is currently priced at $46.1 billion.Analysts have put a rough value of $6 billion on "Printco" (which would include newspapers, books and inserts). The prospect of a split, potentially an in specie distribution of around one "Printco" share to 9 News Corp shares also raises the chance of at least a partial wind-back of the dual-class share structure - one of News' most contentious issues, it allows the Murdoch family, with a 12 per cent financial stake in the group to control nearly 40 per cent of the vote.While "Printco" is still barely a theory, should print eventually be spun off, the Murdoch family would face an uphill battle if it tried to repeat News Corp's share structure.Hacking troubles aside, Mr Murdoch's financial muscle and political power across the globe remains phenomenal. Just yesterday Forbes rated Mr Murdoch the world's 106th richest person at $US8.3 billion ($A7.8 b).It also considers him the 24th most powerful person in the world. Forbes ranked its power elite on: how many people a person has power over, the financial resources controlled, how many spheres the person has influence in, and how actively they wield their power.Mr Murdoch is one of only seven businessmen in the magazine's top 30 (and one of four octogenarians).