Stock downgrades. Acquisitions that didn't pan out. Businesses leaking cash. Layoffs. And a whole lot of pessimism about the future. Is Rupert Murdoch losing his magic, wrinkly touch?
ITEM: An analyst downgraded News Corp's stock because of a whole freaking parcel of problems which he thinks management has no intention of fixing, including but not limited to:
"Our fear is that News Corp is so committed to its existing businesses that it will be willing to sustain businesses that slip into negative profitability for years, (similar to its approach to the NY Post). We believe several of its TV stations are or will shortly be “in the red,” with book publishing heading for losses, as well as a significant number of its Newspapers. In fact, on a reported operating income basis, Dow Jones will generate meaningful losses in its first full-year of News Corp. ownership following its $5.7 billion acquisition.”
ITEM: Jeff Bercovici reports that more layoffs are coming at the WSJ. Murdoch has invested heavily in the paper, but there will be no more expansion for the foreseeable future. Bercovici says there may be 50 buyout offers, and an entire WSJ bureau might get closed. (Side note: maybe this will make the analyst above 1% happier, though.)
ITEM: You know who else is extremely pessimistic about News Corp's future, and that of the world financial markets at large? Rupert Murdoch himself!
“It would be very foolish if we said here we are, we had a crisis, and how do we get out of it quickly,” he said. “The crisis is getting worse. When you get to the real economy, values are still going down.”...
“You have world financial markets, it doesn’t really matter where you’re talking about in the world,” Murdoch said. “There’s no hiding place, the world financial markets are in a great state of disarray.”
All true, but not the greatest cheerleading performance we've ever seen. News Corp is in for a harsh ride along with every other media company. It's all relative now. If Murdoch can just perform better than his competitors for the next few year—even if they're all in the toilet—he will be the big media winner of the recession. But don't count on it.