Rupert Murdoch halts News Corp and Fox merger

Judah Duke, Business Editor

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch curbed his plans for a reunifying merger between Fox Corp. and News Corp. in a letter to both boards on Jan. 24.

After the potential merger in October 2022, Murdoch — whose family trust owns nearly 40% of the voting rights for both companies — proposed the reunion to cut costs and unify leadership. But Murdoch later halted the deal, saying it was “not optimal for shareholders,” who were largely comforted by the reversal.

The two companies were created from News Corp. during an organizational shift in 2013. The former parent company spun off its film and television assets into 21st Century Fox. The publishing segment was left under the corporate umbrella of the present-day News Corp., a stylized rebranding.

The about-face paused a deal that would have brought together news outlets owned by News Corp. — including The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and News UK, which publishes The Sun and The Times — with news outlets owned by Fox Corp., which include the Fox broadcasting network and TMZ. Also included in the deal would be and book publisher HarperCollins.

However, the addition of Fox’s assets would not impart as much value as they once had. In 2019, the Walt Disney Co. bought $71.3 billion worth of property from what used to be 21st Century Fox, taking its entire film and television libraries. What remained, including the broadcast network, became Fox Corp.

Some of News Corp.’s notable investors saluted the decision, indicating it might have endangered other modes of value generation for the company.

Independent Franchise Partners — which owns 7% of News Corp. Class A shares and 6.4% in Fox Corp. — said that selling off News Corp. assets might more accurately reflect its value than a recombination. Irenic Capital Management — which owns 2.6% of the class B voting shares of News Corp. — shared similar comments.

“This is the right decision,” Adam Katz, the co-founder and chief investment officer of Irenic, said in a statement. “Looking ahead, News Corp. has an opportunity to create substantial value for its owners.”

Doug Creutz, an analyst at investment banking company Cowen Inc., said investment management giant T. Rowe Price also had a hand in the decision.

“We believe the proposal was withdrawn due to opposition from large investors such as T. Rowe Price, which is the second-largest shareholder of News Corp., with an 18 point position, behind the Murdoch family,” Creutz said, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “T. Rowe indicated they believed that a combination would further undervalue News Corp. shares.”

Next for News Corp. could be a $3 billion sale of its stake in Move Inc., the parent company of, to commercial property company CoStar Group. Talks advanced when the company confirmed discussions with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Jan. 25.

“News Corp. actively assesses opportunities to maximize shareholder value, and discussions with CoStar Group are part of that ongoing effort,” the company said in the SEC filing.

Fox Corp. Class A shares closed at $32.67 on Jan. 24. News Corp.’s Class A shares closed at $19.53 the same day.