By paulgillin | September 8, 2008 - 7:22 am - Posted in Business News, Layoffs, Murdoch, NewMedia, Newspapers
Vanity Fair has an extended profile of News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch written by the author of a forthcoming biography of the media mogul. The piece depicts Murdoch as a complex, rather tormented but ultimately transparent man who is perhaps one of the few media tycoons left who truly loves newspapers. The 77-year-old Murdoch has been transformed by his marriage to a woman 38 years his junior who has brought him into the echelons of high society, a position he evidently craves. 

One of the more remarkable vignettes has Murdoch on the phone attempting to confirm a rumor he had heard the evening before. He’s hitting the phones, scribbling madly on a notepad and generally playing the part of the beat reporter. “Here was the old man, in white shirt, singlet visible underneath, doing one of the same basic jobs he’d been doing since he was 22, having inherited the Adelaide News in Australia from his father,” Michael Wolff writes. “And he was good at it.”

For all of Murdoch’s brilliant maneuvers in non-print media – most notably, his purchases of MySpace and Fox – it’s clear that the Australian mogul is first and foremost a newspaperman. “He may be the last person to love newspapers,” Wolff writes. To that end, the account details Murdoch’s ambitions to own The New York Times, a paper he despises for its pretentiousness yet covets for its mystique. 

“I’ve watched him go through the numbers, plot out a merger with the Journal’s backroom operations, and fantasize about the staff’s quitting en masse as soon as he entered the sacred temple,” Wolff writes. “It would be sweet revenge—because the Times for so long has made him the bogeyman and vulgarian…the Times represents the ultimate in newspaper proprietorship.”

Murdoch’s complexity is evident throughout the piece. He obsesses over relationships with his children and infighting over how the News Corp. empire will be governed after he’s gone. He worries about criticism from his mother, now 99, who doesn’t like the new wife. He enjoys being in the company of world leaders but admits to having had few friends in his life. He comes across as simultaneously brilliant, vindictive, engaging, curmudgeonly, brash and vulnerable. Like we said, complex.

McClatchy Planning to Go Private?

Alan Mutter blows the whistle on some goings-on at McClatchy that could be a precursor to an effort to take the company private. The company filed a document with the SEC late on Friday stating that CEO Gary Pruitt had resigned as one of the four directors of the family trusts that control McClatchy stock. There are three possible reasons for the move, Mutter theorizes: The family plans to take the company private; Pruitt himself plans to buy the company; or Pruitt is about to be shown the door.

Mutter’s numbers indicate that it wouldn’t cost a whole lot for McClatchy to buy out its shareholders at a 20% prevmium to the company’s depressed stock price and that it could use funds now being applied to shareholder dividends to pay down its $2.1 billion debt. This makes a leveraged buyout appealing if the buyers truly believe in the value of a newspaper business. It would also likely spark a protest by jilted shareholders, who would be left with a few pennies on the dollar as a result of McClatchy’s 88% stock decline over the last two years. Mutter knows finance and his analysis is convincing. Something big is probably brewing at McClatchy (for the record, the company told the Sacramento Bee that the move is a routine adjustment).

Miscellany

We mentioned last week that the Riverside Press-Enterprise of southern California was planning to lay off 30 people. What we didn’t know is that the paper has also had 120 employees accept its buyout offer. That brings to 413 the number of A.H. Belo employees who have opted for buyouts. It’s not clear what the total employment is at the Press-EnterpriseA listing on Manta says 700 but Spoke says it’s over 1,000. If Manta is correct, then the departure of 150 staff is a big hit.

 






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This entry was posted on Monday, September 8th, 2008 at 7:22 am and is filed under Business News, Layoffs, Murdoch, NewMedia, Newspapers. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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  1. September 8, 2008 @ 12:54 pm



    The Press-Enterprise had 927 employees before the buyouts.

    Posted by newswoman
  2. September 8, 2008 @ 4:58 pm



    I work for a McClatchy company. Does this mean that the gushing may stop and its papers may stop the buyouts, or will this move really make a difference in that regard?

    Posted by Newsguy
  3. September 8, 2008 @ 5:04 pm



    It depends on the objectives of the people doing the acquisition. If they really believe in newspapers, then going private would give them some air cover from the demands of the stock market. That should be good for employees. If it’s someone who wants to break up or flip the company for a quick profit, then they’ll probably slash and burn. If the existing management undertakes an LBO, it should be a good sign.

    Posted by paulgillin