News Corp. takes a Shine to bigger plans

Murdoch may buy out daughter Elisabeth's Shine Group

Murdoch’s plans for BSkyB face close call

Why not keep it in the family?

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. has emerged as the favorite to win control of Elisabeth Murdoch’s Shine Group, whose assets include Reveille in the U.S. and U.K. shingle Kudos.

News Corp. already owns 13% of the producer-distributor via BSkyB, but it emerged last month that Elisabeth Murdoch, Rupe’s daughter and owner of 53% of Shine, has appointed JP Morgan to advise it on “its strategic options and growth opportunities.”

“News Corp. is in pole position to acquire Shine,” says U.K. media analyst Claire Enders.

Should News Corp. succeed, there is speculation that the closer links could give Elisabeth Murdoch a powerful position within the mother ship that could lead to her eventual rise to CEO.

At present, Elisabeth’s youngest brother James, who heads News Corp.’s European and Asian interests from London, is regarded as first among his sibling equals.

But his abrasive style and costly investments in U.K. terrestrial web ITV and paybox Sky Deutschland, has left some within News Corp. asking whether he is yet mature enough to succeed Rupe.

Elisabeth’s style is more emollient. She is widely admired in the U.K. and international TV circles for her people skills and business sense, evident in the way she has grown Shine via a savvy acquisition strategy.

She declined an offer to join the News Corp. board last year alongside sibs James and Lachlan, who has not had an executive role in the business since 2005.

There are no regulatory hurdles waiting to trip up a News Corp.-controlled Shine.

“Unlike broadcasting, production and distribution is a highly fragmented business where a lot of competition exists,” says Enders, adding, “Shine isn’t even the biggest indie in the U.K.; Al3Media is. Whereas BSkyB is far and away the dominant player in the pay TV market which is why there are such concerns over News Corp. owning the company outright.”

BSkyB is beefing up its content division in the U.K., so some have speculated that — should a takeover occur — Shine could be folded into a Brit-based Fox-style studio.

As for the succession talk, the received wisdom is that Rupe, who is 80 this year, is “not going anywhere.”

After all, his mother celebrates her 102nd birthday this month, so Murdoch has good genes on his side.

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