Shares of the parent company of 20th Century Fox are down about 2% this year, which while lousy, actually is significantly better than other media conglomerates including Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS), Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX), and Viacom Inc. (NYSE: VIA), which each are down much more. The attraction here isn't shareholder value. It's Murdoch.
Quite simply, the Australian media tycoon is the most dynamic CEO in the industry. He's one of the few who does stuff stuff just because he feels like doing it. Just because the market really doesn't need another cable news business channel, that doesn't mean that Murdoch won't start one. Fox Business Network isn't going to make a nickel for years and won't do much for shareholders. The same goes for Dow Jones & Co. (NYSE: DJ). Spending $5 billion for the publisher of the Wall Street Journal may be a slight help to the bottom line, though its potential may not be realized for years either.
What makes Murdoch tick is lust for power and influence. He started Fox Business Network because he thought that CNBC wasn't pro business enough, a sentiment that probably shocked the likes of Larry Kudlow and Jim Cramer. Advertisers are no doubt getting commercial time on Fox Business for a fraction of what they would pay on CNBC or Bloomberg TV. The question is whether they'll be interested in the network once its novelty begins to wear off.
As for the Journal, worries about Murdoch interfering with the newspaper are overblown. He doesn't have to ring up an editor to tell him about a story he hates. A high-level Murdoch employee knows very well what the mogul likes and doesn't like and will comport himself accordingly.
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