Did Rupert Murdoch meet his match? He failed in his bid for Time Warner, but liberals may be celebrating too soon

 

new york

Has the “Dirty Digger” really come a cropper, or has that sly old dog Rupert Murdoch simply retreated to his lair to scheme and plan in much more ruthless detail a mega-takeover that will define his storied career?

On the face of things,  Mr Murdoch has withdrawn 21st Century Fox’s $80bn (£48bn) bid for Time Warner that has left the  83-year-old media titan’s legacy takeover move in tatters.

The Time Warner deal would have doubled the size of Mr Murdoch’s empire that he could then leave to his offspring when he goes to meet his maker.

But did Mr Murdoch eventually meet his match in Time Warner’s chief executive,  Jeff Bewkes? Mr Bewkes changed the company’s rules to make it harder for Time Warner shareholders to arrange a special meeting, which could have delayed Mr Murdoch’s move had he launched a “proxy war” to convince investors.

He also had the support of many powerful liberals in the US news and entertainment industries outraged at the prospect of Mr Murdoch owning even more of their media.

Further, Mr Bewkes claimed that many Time Warner shareholders supported him in his rebuttal of Mr Murdoch.

“The board and our senior management team appreciate very much the continued support of our shareholders,” he said in a conference call to discuss Time Warner’s earnings with investors and analysts, adding that he would not comment on Mr Murdoch’s withdrawn offer.

In a statement, the company said: “Time Warner’s board and management team are committed to enhancing long-term value and we look forward to continuing to deliver substantial and sustainable returns for all stockholders.

“Time Warner is well positioned for success with our iconic assets, including the world’s leading premium television brand, the world’s strongest ad-supported cable-network group, and the world’s largest film and television studio.”

There is no doubt, though, that Mr Bewkes will have to prove to his shareholders that he was correct in turning down an opening bid of $85 a share – which would likely have risen – for a company that traded between $60 and $70 for much of the past year.

That process started at lunchtime yesterday when Time Warner announced quarterly earnings that beat analysts’ estimates and plans to buy back $5bn of its stock.  Mr Bewkes will need to do more than that. The shares have fallen from around $85 to around $75 since Mr Murdoch withdrew his proposal.

So does this go down as one of Mr Murdoch’s biggest defeats? Have the liberal luvvies at Time Warner really repelled for good the king of the conservatives?

Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox group has withdrawn its bid for Time Warner (Getty) Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox group has withdrawn its bid for Time Warner (Getty)  

This is Rupert Murdoch we are talking about. To many, it seems extraordinary that he is going to walk away, defeated by a bunch of liberals.

RBC Capital Markets analyst David Bank argues that Mr Murdoch is being a sensible businessman in knowing when a deal is dead. The prospect of having to increase the offer to as high as $100 a sharewas getting too scary for even the biggest media mogul of them all.

“I think this is the new and improved Rupert Murdoch, who has a strategic vision but is better aligned with the interests of public shareholders, and is willing to exercise price discipline,” Mr Bank says. “It wasn’t worth the cost. I think he saw that.”

Another analyst, Tony Wible of Janney Capital Markets, however, suspects this could be a ruse to boost his share price so he can revisit the deal later: “There could be sincerity... or it could be a bluff.”

He says the timing of Mr Murdoch’s withdrawal just hours before Time Warner announced earnings and held a call with investors and analysts was making him “suspicious”.

“It does help pressure the Time Warner shareholders. I don’t think this thing is done just yet.”

 Another investment analyst, Barry Ritholtz, adds: “I’m fascinated by the game theory that goes on with Rupert Murdoch, who has always been a crafty deal maker.”

Mr Murdoch’s advisers suggest not only is the Time Warner deal unlikely to be revived, but that 21st Century Fox will not chase another big deal for the sake of it.

Listen to the man himself: “We viewed a combination with Time Warner as a unique opportunity to bring together two great companies, each with celebrated content and brands.

“Our proposal had significant strategic merit and compelling financial rationale and our approach had always been friendly.  However, Time Warner management and its board refused to engage with us to explore an offer which was highly compelling.

“Additionally, the (negative) reaction in our share price... undervalues our stock and makes the transaction unattractive to Fox shareholders.”

Shares of 21st Century Fox had fallen since Mr Murdoch announced his move, but they bounced back up after he withdrew the plan on Tuesday night. 21st Century Fox also now plans to buy back up to $6bn of its stock.

Liberals in the US are jumping for joy at Mr Murdoch’s apparent failure, led by watchdog Media Matters, which calls itself a “progressive research and information centre dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analysing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the US media”.

Media Matters’ vice-president Angelo Carusone said: “The prospect of Rupert Murdoch buying Time Warner presented real harms to the US and global-media landscape. It would have given him control of 40 per cent of the cable market and 30 per cent of the movie market.

“No one should hold that much influence but Murdoch, in particular, has demonstrated that he is far too irresponsible for that amount of power. Today’s decision was a victory for the thousands of people who signed our petition urging shareholders to oppose the sale as well as media consumers across the country.”

So has Mr Murdoch found humility? Is his appetite satisfied enough for him to shuffle off the global-media stage, leaving his empire in its current shape to his sons?

History suggests not, but then, perhaps even Mr Murdoch gets old eventually.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Arts and Entertainment
Ella Henderson's first studio album has gone straight to the top of the charts
music
News
<p>Jonathan Ross</p>
<p>Jonathan Ross (or Wossy, as he’s affectionately known) has been on television and radio for an extraordinarily long time, working on a seat in the pantheon of British presenters. Hosting Friday Night with Jonathan Ross for nine years, Ross has been in everything from the video game Fable to Phineas and Ferb. So it’s probably not so surprising that Ross studied at Southampton College of Art (since rebranded Southampton Solent), a university known nowadays for its media production courses.</p>
<p>However, after leaving Solent, Ross studied History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, now part of the UCL, a move that was somewhat out of keeping with the rest of his career. Ross was made a fellow of the school in 2006 in recognition of his services to broadcasting.</p>
TV

Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new

Life and Style
fashion
News
Paul Nuttall, left, is seen as one of Ukip's key weapons in selling the party to the North of England
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Russell Brand labelled 'left-wing commie scum' by Fox News
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC's Antiques Roadshow uncovers a TIE fighter pilot helmet from the 1977 Star Wars film, valuing it at £50,000
TV

TV presenter Fiona Bruce seemed a bit startled by the find during the filming of Antiques Roadshow

News
people

Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'

News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Steven Caulker of QPR scores an own goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Queens Park Rangers and Liverpool
football
Arts and Entertainment
artKaren Wright tours the fair and wishes she had £11m to spare
News
i100
Life and Style
Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh been invited to take part in Women Fashion Power, a new exhibition that celebrates the way women's fashion has changed in relation to their growing power and equality over the past 150 years
fashionKirsty and Camila swap secrets about how to dress for success
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
booksNew book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Operational Risk Manager - Asset Management

£60,000 - £80,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is an leading Asset Manager based...

Project Coordinator - 12 month contract

£27000 - £32000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our large charity ...

IT Operations Manager - London - £55,000

£50000 - £55000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Relationship M...

Banking Solicitor NQ+

Highly Attractive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NOTTINGHAM - BRILLIANT FIRM - You wil...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past