It’s taken a few years, but Elisabeth Murdoch has made it on her own terms as an entrepreneur and head of her London-based Shine Group. A series of recent acquisitions has significantly boosted the company’s profile in the global TV biz, and helped her realize the business plan she had in mind when she started the company after leaving her post as managing director of News Corp.’s BSkyB in 2000.
The acquisition of the Ben Silverman-founded Reveille gives the company a significant presence in the U.S. market, with “The Office,” “Ugly Betty” and “The Biggest Loser,” among others, and in the worldwide format sales biz.
In late 2006, amid a rush of consolidation among U.K. indie producers spurred by legislative changes allowing producers to retain their copyrights, Shine cherry-picked three top Brit TV shops: Firefly, Princess and prestige drama house Kudos, which also produced last year’s Oscar-nommed “Eastern Promises.”
“When I set up Shine (in 2001) there was a new generation of creative people coming forward,” Murdoch says. “There was a real opportunity to provide the business infrastructure and economic backing for great creative people. I thought if we built a business that cut across multiple genres of programming it would allow us to weather the cycles” of television program trends.
Murdoch’s moves have drawn the inevitable comparisons to her mogul-dad, Rupert‘s, own reputation for spotting well-timed acquisition targets. But Shine’s growth has helped Elisabeth step out of her father’s long shadow. She’s been tapped to deliver the keynote address (“Creativity without Borders”) April 7 on the opening day of the Mip TV sales confab in Cannes.
“We tried to do a lot all at once with Shine,” Murdoch admits. “It was an uphill struggle. It was five to six years of cutting our teeth (before) we were able to get the critical respect of the industry.”
Of course, now that Shine has reached to a new level of prominence, the pressure is on to keep its businesses thriving. Murdoch — who is the majority shareholder in the company, in which Sony also has a 20% stake and BSkyB has an 8% interest — says she favors a decentralized approach to management, allowing the heads of Shine’s four units to operate more or less autonomously.
“It’s important that we all keep our eye on the big picture, but I wouldn’t suggest to someone that they shouldn’t go ahead with a project that they’re passionate about,” she says. “If you’re overly prescriptive (as managers), you end up with a company that is managed by rules rather than creativity. I’ve seen that happen at many big companies, and it is the death knell for a creative company.”
So how does Shine’s boss describe her role at the top?
“Hopefully, I’m sometimes a sounding board, sometimes an inspiration, sometimes a politician and sometimes I have to weigh in with an opinion,” Murdoch says. “My job is setting a course and inspiring people to pull in the same direction.”
After a pause she adds: “I feel very lucky, and very thankful. I wake up every morning thinking that there’s so much opportunity for us. Let’s not miss out on anything.”