Lachlan Murdoch eyes THR, Billboard

Oz mogul targets first major U.S. acquisition

LONDON — Lachlan Murdoch is targeting for purchase Nielsen Business Media, publisher of the Hollywood Reporter and Billboard — his most significant U.S. business play since quitting News Corp. four years ago.

According to a report in the Financial Times, Murdoch — Rupert’s eldest son — has made a joint offer for the bulk of Nielsen Business Media via his investment shingle Illyria.

The partner in the potential acquisition, which could be announced soon, is said to be the newly formed Pluribus Capital Management.

Pluribus includes James Finkelstein, U.S. publisher of “Who’s Who” and Washington D.C. newspaper the Hill; Matthew Doull, a nephew of newspaper owner Conrad Black and former publisher of Wired; and George Green, former publisher of Hearst Magazines Intl.

The FT reported that an anonymous source familiar with the negotiations said that each group would invest an equal sum in Nielsen and be equally represented on the board.

The person would not confirm reports that Nielsen was seeking $70 million for the business.

Nielsen has not commented, but at a conference last month, chief financial officer Brian West said, “For assets that don’t hit the mark, we’re always looking to work them out of the portfolio.” (At the same time, he referred to Billboard and the Hollywood Reporter as “our prime, core, iconic brands” and said, “Those are the ones we’ll continue to work through this (downturn) cycle because those brands, once this turns around, those are going to win — largely by the brand itself.”

Last week, Murdoch acquired 50% of Daily Mail and General Trust’s Australian radio assets for a sum believed to be in the region of $96 million.

Murdoch, News Corp.’s former deputy chief operating officer, left his father’s media empire in 2005 and moved to Australia to work on his own business activities.

In the intervening years, his younger brother James, now CEO of News Corp. in Europe and Asia and chairman of U.K. paybox BSkyB, has emerged as Rupert’s heir apparent.

But Murdoch senior has said he hopes that Lachlan may eventually return to executive duties at News Corp., where he remains a board director.

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