After markets closed on Friday, News Corp. (NASDAQ: NWSA) formally split itself into two pieces: a publishing company still to be called News Corp. and a movie and TV company named Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. (NASDAQ: FOXA). Both companies will also trade class B shares under the symbols NWS and FOX, respectively. Rupert Murdoch will be the chairman of both companies, and he owns about 40% of the voting shares in each. Murdoch also will be the CEO of Twenty-First Century Fox. Robert Thomson will take over as CEO of the new News Corp.
Owners of News Corp. shares before the split received one share of class A stock in the new News Corp. for every four shares they held. Existing shares were converted one-for-one for shares in Twenty-First Century Fox.
The new News Corp. now has about $2.56 billion in cash, including a payment of $1.82 billion from Twenty-First Century Fox, and no debt.
News Corp. assets include The Wall Street Journal, HarperCollins publishers, The Times of London, the New York Post, Dow Jones news services, plus other Australia- and U.K.-based tabloid newspapers. Dow Jones recently launched a product called DJX, intended to compete with the gold standard Bloomberg terminal.
Twenty-First Century Fox will include the Fox broadcast network, Fox News, the Fox movie and TV studios, 27 TV stations and soon a new Fox Sports 1 cable network, yet another challenger to Walt Disney Co.’s (NYSE: DIS) ESPN franchise and the budding NBC Sports Network, owned by Comcast Corp. (NASDAQ: CMCSA). The company also holds a stake in Hulu, along with NBCUniversal and Disney, and 39% of British satellite company BSkyB.
The new News Corp. has shown interest in acquiring The Los Angeles Times from The Tribune Company and, perhaps, even the Financial Times from Pearson PLC (NYSE: PSO).
It appears that News Corp. plans to put some distance between itself and its history as a newspaper publisher by trying to establish its print publications as platform that would then diversify into new digital products. That means, of course, cutting costs enough to meet the lower ad revenues inevitably generated by digital media.
To survive, News Corp. will have to do better than buying a once-hot Internet property like MySpace for $580 million and selling the same company six years later for $35 million.