Malone's Machinations Drag Murdoch to Negotiating Table

07 February 2005

Those in the world of media who can out-fox Rupert Murdoch are an elite minority.

One is the chairman of Liberty Media: John C Malone.

It transpired Friday that the canny cable entrepreneur has finally hammer-locked the the Big Kahuna of News Corporation to the negotiating table - a locus dodged by Murdoch for several months despite Malone's acquisition of 18% of NewsCorp's voting stock.

Speaking at a teleconference with analysts and journalists, Murdoch said he was confident he could come to a "friendly and fair resolution" with Malone.

"But," he added hastily, "we are certainly not going to be giving up big assets which we have really big plans for. Nor are we going to have our cupboards cleaned out of all our cash. There is plenty of room to talk."

Conceded Mudoch: "We may be able to take back and cancel some of the [News Corp] shares [owned by Liberty] in return for some cash and maybe some asset which they would value more than we would value."

Malone has made no secret of the fact that he wants to swap a percentage of his NewsCorp voting stock for some of the group's TV production and programming assets.

These would slot-in neatly (and profitably) alongside Liberty's portfolio of media assets which include entertainment networks Encore and QVC. It also has substantial investments in Time Warner and telecoms/internet service provider Sprint.

But the patriarch of clan Murdoch, even though forced into talking turkey, is determined to drag his feet toward the negotiating table. He told analysts it could be six to nine months before any agreement is reached with Liberty

Data sourced from Sydney Morning Herald; additional content by WARC staff