Outlook: More on Booth

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The Independent Online
NOTHING IS quite what it seems in Rupert Murdoch's business empire. Officially the explanation of Mark Booth's abrupt departure from his post as chief executive of BSkyB is that he found the offer of a cut of the action heading up Rupert Murdoch's assault on the Internet too much to resist. He even turned down a $25m golden hello from Bill Gates at Microsoft to sign on the dotted line.

Well maybe, but there may be more to this than meets the eye. According to industry gossip, Mr Booth was with Mr Murdoch in Paris when the idea of a merger with Sky was put to Pierre Lescure, chief executive of Canal Plus.

Quite out of the blue Mr Murdoch said that, as far as division of management was concerned, it wouldn't be a problem. Mr Lescure would be chief executive of the merged company. Mr Booth is said to have been so apoplectic with rage that he refused to go back to the office for five days, returning only after it became obvious the merger wasn't going to happen. Even so, it must have been clear to Mr Booth that his number was up.

The other side of the official story - Mr Murdoch's new Internet venture capital fund - seems strange too. What is this fund meant to be, where's the money coming from, and what is Mr Murdoch doing entering the Internet venture capital business so late in the day? All very odd, very odd indeed.