Fox News’ handling of the renewed harassment allegations is a reflection of greater company conflicts and a generational shift as Rupert hangs on to a bygone era and James and Lachlan plot a risky new course.
Michael Wolff reports: Last July, after Gretchen Carlson sued the Murdoch-controlled 21st Century Fox and Roger Ailes, the then-head of Fox News Channel, for sexual harassment, Rupert Murdoch told his sons, both Ailes enemies, that paying off Carlson without a fight would mean more lawsuits. Easy-money settlements always bring more claims. James and Lachlan Murdoch, however, were eager to get rid of their nemesis, and the most direct way to do that was to accept Carlson’s claims after a quickie investigation and then use a big payoff — $20 million — to end the dispute and calm the storm.
Nine months later, the chickens coming home to roost, Fox has continued to collect a string of look-alike claims against Ailes and against ratings giant Bill O’Reilly, with a firestorm of recent press attention on what The New York Times is calling the “O’Reilly revelations.” What has been revealed is not evidence nor an admission of guilt but details of payments settling complaints against O’Reilly — not a small distinction. You can assume maximal guilt, which the Times and other Fox haters do, or you can assume, as many lawyers do, that when there is money to be had, plaintiffs come out of the woodwork. (“Coming out of the woodwork” is a virtual term of art in big settlement tort cases).
Murdoch Senior is said to be saying, “I told you so.” James, CEO of 21st Century Fox, is blaming it on the Fox News culture and has hired Paul Weiss, the same law firm that performed a two-week investigation of Ailes, to probe O’Reilly (there is, too, a Department of Justice investigation of how settlement payments were made, which Rupert dismisses as DOJ liberal politics and which his sons see as indicating more Fox News dark arts). This is a reflection of greater family and company interests and conflicts. Read the rest of this entry »
NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) — Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. has struck a preliminary deal to buy the 61 percent of British pay-TV firm Sky PLC it does not already own for around $14 billion, five years after a political scandal wrecked a previous bid.
The proposed offer of £10.75 a share in cash, which is backed by Sky’s independent directors, would strengthen the position of James Murdoch — who is both chief executive of Fox and chairman of Sky — in his 85-year-old father’s media empire.
People familiar with the matter said Fox had pounced after Britain’s vote to leave the European Union in June sent the pound down about 14 percent against the U.S. dollar and Sky’s share price tumbling.
Owning Sky would give Fox, whose cable networks include Fox News and FX, control of a pay-TV network spanning 22 million households in Britain, Ireland, Austria, Germany and Italy.
It would also be the latest deal to marry distribution with content after AT&T Inc. announced an $85 billion bid to buy Time Warner Inc. earlier this year. While Sky does produce some of its own content, including in news and sport, the deal would give Fox full ownership of a wider distribution platform in Europe.
“Fox has always seen its 39 percent stake in Sky as an unnatural state of being and has long been trying to buy full control,” a person familiar with the deal said. Read the rest of this entry »
At first blush, it’s strange to think of Murdoch — who was 56 years old when the Fox network made its primetime debut in 1987 — as some sort of renegade. As the head of a major media conglomerate, he’s been a firmly entrenched part of the establishment.
Through the series of deals on which he built Fox, however, as well as the expansion of the studio, Murdoch has seldom been bound by convention. Read the rest of this entry »