Rare interview with News Corp. chairman, CEO

Rupe sez Fox undervalued

NEW YORK — News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch said he thinks his company’s publicly traded Fox Entertainment unit is wildly undervalued compared with other entertainment stocks.

In a rare televised interview with CNN’s “Moneyline” on Friday, Murdoch, 68, also delivered a resounding vote of confidence in Peter Chernin, News Corp.’s co-chief operating officer, as his heir apparent, “trusted right hand and friend.”

“If I went under a bus today, I’m sure that Peter would be appointed chief executive officer. And maybe in five years or eight years’ time, my son (Lachlan) might be co-chief executive. They’ll work it out between them. They will get on well,” Murdoch said.

Eldest son Lachlan runs the company’s Australian operations and its U.S. publishing ventures. Murdoch’s son James oversees music and works on News’ new-media projects, while his daughter Elisabeth is an exec at U.K. pay TV giant BSkyB.

“Certainly, my family will have a lot of say in it. And they have, by far, the largest voting block of shares. (That) doesn’t mean they’re going to run it, but we’ll have to see who’s ready … in five or six years’ time, or 10, depending on how long I stay active and capable of doing the job,” Murdoch said. His comments were taken from a transcript of the segment.

He said he and Chernin complement each other. “I think he’s better, certainly better, at handling the Hollywood creative people than I am.” Asked why, Murdoch said Chernin has “had more time at it and perhaps is more patient in nature.”

Murdoch attributed some of the pressure on Fox stock to talk in recent months of how hard it is to make money in the TV network business.

Moreover, he said, investors are wary as the huge profits realized last year from “Titanic” have trickled off. Still, he said the market was shortsighted and that Fox shares are 20%-30% undervalued.

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