By James Taylor, managementtoday.co.uk, Tuesday, 22 February 2011 11:45AM
It’s been on the cards for a while, but Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp confirmed today that it has agreed to buy Shine, his daughter Elisabeth’s UK-based independent TV production company, for a tasty £415m (as long as regulators don’t put the kybosh on it). The deal means Elisabeth, who owns just over half of the business, will be another £200m or so richer. She’s also back in the News Corp fold, having joined the board. The question now is: how does Rupert intend to employ his daughter’s obvious talents?
MT has long tipped Elisabeth for success; she featured in our 35 under 35 list way back in 2002. But we’re prepared to accept that, as talent-spotting goes, that hardly puts us up there with the guy who discovered the Beatles. After all, with that surname she was always going to go far in the media industry – as well as giving her independent means, it will also have opened every door in the business, and reassured investors that their money was unlikely to be wasted.
However, that’s not to say that the subsequent success of Shine is undeserved. Ultimately, the only way to build a production company is by making TV programmes that people like to watch. And Shine has certainly managed that: thanks to a string of astute acquisitions, its stable include the likes of Spooks, The Biggest Loser, MasterChef and Ashes to Ashes. Turnover hit £265m in 2009 (up 23%), and president Alex Mahon told MT before Christmas that it could see a further 50% uplift in 2010. So despite the fact that it makes more than half its money overseas nowadays, this is a genuine UK creative industry success story.
Of course, the sceptics will always claim that Murdoch only got where she is today by trading on her name – and the fact that Daddy has just lined her pockets so extravagantly will hardly dispel that perception (some might even argue that this exit was always on the cards, which is why investors backed her). But it doesn’t look as though Murdoch senior is paying massively over the odds: as Guardian media editor - and some-time MT contributor – Dan Sabbagh explains eloquently here, the deal seemingly values the company at just over 10 times earnings, which is hardly ridiculous.
So what next for Elisabeth? Having left Sky in 2001 to do her own thing, she’s been out of the company a long time – and with brother James now apparently the heir apparent to the Murdoch empire, it’s not entirely clear what kind of senior role she might take. But given her entrepreneurial talents, we suspect Murdoch senior is pondering that question even as we speak.
This article was first published on managementtoday.co.uk