SYDNEY: Chief executive officers of listed newspaper publishing companies are used to being accused of business frailties. Naiveté is not usually one of them.

So all but the most cynical of media observers will be reassured by John Fairfax Holdings' ceo David Kirk's statement that he has taken Rupert Murdoch "at his word".

The word/s in question are "entirely friendly", and they were uttered last week by the chief of Clan Murdoch in relation to News Corporation's surprise purchase of a 7.5% stake in Fairfax.

Speaking Wednesday to the National Press Club in Canberra, Kirk was in Panglossian mode, opining that Murdoch is unlikely to agitate for a break-up of the company.

"Fairfax," he said, "enjoys clear benefits from our scale and diversification, and the value of the integration we have achieved. The dis-synergies of breaking up the company are very substantial indeed."

Murdoch too played down the significance of his Fairfax foray. At NewsCorp's annual meeting last week he assured: "It's a strategic holding. We certainly do not have any plans to take over Fairfax and at this stage; no plans to take over anything else down there [in Australia]."

Almost as an aside, however, Murdoch added that NewsCorp "might buy more shares in Fairfax". Which triggers fond memories of the childhood verse:

There was a young lady of Riga
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger;
They returned from the ride
With the lady inside,
And the smile on the face of the tiger.

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