Friday, 7 December 2007

News Corporation on taking over Dow Jones

With a week to go before the News Corporation, owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, takes control of Dow Jones & Company, there are already management changes under way at the top of Dow Jones. Richard F. Zannino, Dow Jones’s chief executive, will leave the company after staying for a time to help with the transition, to be succeeded by Les Hilton, executive chairman of News International. News International includes News Corporation’s British newspapers: The Times of London, The Sunday Times, The News of the World and The Sun.

Executives at both companies say there will be a broader sweep of the upper echelon at Dow Jones in the next few weeks, both to eliminate duplication and to make way for Mr. Murdoch’s people. Mr. Zannino’s departure was announced by the company yesterday, a week ahead of the shareholder vote that is expected to seal the deal. He will stay on through a transition period.

Mr. Zannino said the choice to leave was his; others at Dow Jones were divided as to whether that was so, while some said the decision was mutual. Mr. Murdoch has a history of putting his loyalists atop newly acquired operations. Mr. Zannino is also in line for a financial windfall when he leaves, under a change-of-control provision Dow Jones adopted last summer. His exit package is worth more than $26 million (£13 million), including $3.4 million (£1.7 million) in severance pay and nearly $7 million (£3.5 million) in shares, according to estimates from James F. Reda & Associates, a consulting firm.

Mr. Zannino, 49, who became chief executive almost two years ago, is widely credited with making Dow Jones run more efficiently, and he led a shift toward electronic media and away from ink and paper. Under him, Dow Jones bought and the half of the Factiva archive service that it did not already own, and sold several small newspapers. News Corp is acquiring Dow Jones for about $5 billion (£2.5 billion) in a deal that is expected to close next week.

In an interview yesterday, Mr. Zannino said his legacy would be “getting us all to think like a media company rather than a newspaper company; viewing The Wall Street Journal as a franchise, as opposed to a newspaper.” (source: The New York Times) - New Bid for Northern Rock by Olivant

News Corporation has confirmed that James Murdoch, the chief executive of BSkyB, has been appointed as its new chairman and chief executive for Europe and Asia. Mr Murdoch will step down from his role as chief executive at BSkyB but will become non-executive chairman and succeed his father, Rupert Murdoch, who has stepped down as a director of the broadcasting group.

He will report to Peter Chernin, president and chief operating officer of News Corporation.
James Murdoch will be replaced by Jeremy Darroch, who is the chief financial officer of BSkyB. Sky is 39.1% owned by News Corporation. Commenting on the appointment, Rupert Murdoch, chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, said: "James is a talented and proven executive with a rare blend of international perspective and deep, hands-on experience in improving operational results. This is the right time to align our operations in Europe and Asia under new, structured group leadership."

The decision to move Mr Murdoch, who will become chairman of News Corporation’s European and Asian businesses, clearly positions the 34-year-old as the most likely successor to his father's leading roles at News Corporation, the media group that also owns the MySpace website and the Fox film studio.

James Murdoch, who was previously a member of News Corp's board between 2000 and 2003, said today: "I am excited to be rejoining News Corporation in this new role leading News Corporation's businesses across Europe and Asia, and I am delighted to continue working with the exceptional team at Sky in my new role as Non-Executive Chairman and as a Director." (source: Timesonline) - BSkyB buys Amstrad

RAB Capital, one of Northern Rock's largest shareholders, has confirmed it is backing Olivant's rescue bid for the stricken bank. Luqman Arnold's Olivant Advisors today said it has received non-binding letters of commitment from five institutional Northern Rock shareholders, who own 23% of the stricken bank, casting doubt on the future of Virgin Money's rescue offer. RAB, holder of 6.6% of Northern Rock, has confirmed it is supporting the former Abbey National chief executive's bid.

SRM Global, the largest shareholder in Northern Rock with over 9%, was unavailable to comment on whether it was backing Olivant's bid as Olivant has unveiled its proposal on the deadline for submitting bids to acquire the troubled mortgage lender which yesterday admitted for the first time that it has borrowed £25 billion worth of emergency funding from the Bank of England.

It also emerged last night that JC Flowers, which had been a serious contender to rescue Northern Rock, has pulled out of the race because it was unable to structure a deal that could both the Government and shareholders happy.

Olivant's proposal includes raising funds of up to £650 million through a rights issue. In contrast, Olivant said today it would issue the shares "at or around" the prevailing market price. Shares in Northern Rock hovered around the £1 mark again today after falling 1.46% to 101.5p. Richard Branson's Virgin Money, which is Northern Rock's preferred bidder, is also proposing raising £650 million through a rights issue but at a heavily discounted 25p.

Olivant said Northern Rock's total £25 billion in debt would be repaid to the Bank of England by the end of 2009 "through active operational management, accelerated through external market financing". The investment group said £10 billion to £15 billion of the £25 billion debt would be repaid after completion of the rights issue.

Olivant also confirmed it would retain the Northern Rock brand and that Mr Arnold be parachuted in to become Northern Rock’s executive chairman, with Kirk Stephenson, Olivant’s chief operating officer, taking up a role as a non-executive director at the bank. Virgin has indicated that they will change the Northern Rock name to Virgin. (source: Timesonline) - New Bid for Northern Rock by Olivant, Northern Rock offers below value, Final bids for Northern Rock today, New player in Northern Rock bid, Virgin pushes forward in takeover, BAA must halve queueing times to avoid fines, SAB Miller to buy Royal Grolsch, BHP Billiton's offer rejected

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