Rupert Murdoch bought his daughter Elisabeth's television production company Shine – makers of MasterChef and Merlin – for £415m yesterday, paving the way for her to take a place on the board of his News Corp media empire.
The deal had been widely anticipated and will enable Ms Murdoch to internationally expand the company she founded in 2001. Shine, which also makes The Tudors, has grown into one of the production powerhouses of the British television sector.
Although it was announced yesterday that Ms Murdoch would report to Chase Carey, the US-based chief operating officer and deputy chairman of News Corp, the acquisition increases Mr Murdoch's influence over British television at a time when he is seeking to wholly own the satellite broadcaster BSkyB. The Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is deliberating on whether to ask the Competition Commission to investigate News Corp's bid to buy the 61 per cent of BSkyB shares it does not already own.
Ms Murdoch's advance to the News Corp board will prompt fresh speculation as to whether she is seen by her father as a potential future leader of the company. In a statement yesterday, the media mogul, who will be 80 next month, said: "Shine has an outstanding creative team that has built a significant independent production company in major markets in very few years and I look forward to them becoming an important part of our varied and large content creation activities."
With a 53 per cent share of Shine, Ms Murdoch will make a personal fortune from the deal. She will not report to her brother James, who is chief executive of News Corp in Europe and Asia and also non-executive chairman of BSkyB, which has a 13 per cent stake in Shine.
She was head of BSkyB's content division Sky Networks before she chose to branch out and found the independent production company. She has been an observer at News Corp meetings for some time but has resisted previous invitations to take a seat on the board.
Speaking of her return to the family business yesterday, Ms Murdoch said: "In a rapidly consolidating global TV industry, this alliance uniquely provides the conditions in which Shine Group can continue to lead and prosper. News Corporation is the partner that enables us to maintain our aspiration to be best in class across all our sectors and prepares and equips us for future growth. Shine shares News Corporation's long-standing belief in creative excellence and ambitious expansion. I could not be happier or more proud that from such modest beginnings Shine will join such an extraordinary group of companies."
The company reported revenues of £258m for 2009, with projected revenues of £400m in 2010. The company's pre-tax profits fell in 2009 to £5.51m from £14.34m the year before, largely due to acquisitions. After a relatively slow start, it has grown into the UK's largest consolidated independent television production company with a presence in 10 countries. The most notable acquisition was that of California-based Reveille, makers of Ugly Betty. Among the UK companies within the Shine stable are the factual production company Dragonfly, the drama specialist Kudos and the entertainment-based Princess Productions. The group also owns the large Swedish-based production house Metronome and has established outposts of Shine in France, Germany and Australia.