Investor acts to stop war of the titans at News Corp

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The Independent Online

Gordon Crawford, one of America's most respected media investors, has intervened to try to ensure no row brews up between Rupert Murdoch and cable king John Malone, who has taken a 17 per cent voting stake in Mr Murdoch's News Corporation.

Gordon Crawford, one of America's most respected media investors, has intervened to try to ensure no row brews up between Rupert Murdoch and cable king John Malone, who has taken a 17 per cent voting stake in Mr Murdoch's News Corporation.

Though Mr Malone has said his shareholding is supportive, the Australian-born mogul has been shoring up his defences against any potential challenges to his authority. He has proposed a "poison pill" that will allow him to issue additional News Corp stock if anyone takes their stake above 18 per cent. The group, which recently changed its domicile from Australia to the US, has an unusual share structure with non-voting shares that are convertible to voting ones.

The Murdoch family controls 30 per cent of the voting shares, but if Mr Malone were to swap all the non-voting stock he holds into voting stock, he would control 49 per cent of the group. In addition, Mr Murdoch has invited Saudi Prince Al-Walid bin Talal to take a 3 per cent stake and the Prince has said he is supporting Mr Murdoch.

Mr Malone has not stated his intention, but it is believed he is concerned about the possible succession of Mr Murdoch's sons, James and Lachlan, should their father die.

Mr Crawford, who runs media investments for the giant US fund manager Capital Research, has emerged as a mediator. Capital owns substantial stakes in both News Corp and Mr Malone's Liberty Media.

Mr Crawford is known as one of the most influential investors in the US media, having backed Mr Murdoch when News Corp was nearly bankrupt 14 years ago. He is also credited with forcing Steve Case, the founder of AOL, to resign as chief executive of AOL TimeWarner.

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