• Newspapers and book publishing to be spun off from TV, film
• News Corp shares rise 8.3%
• Split won’t help any future play for BSkyB, regulator says
• All times ET
11.30am: With a confirmation from News Corporation that the company is considering a split into two entities – a profitable television and film wing, and a less lucrative publishing wing – we are going to liveblog the story as it unfolds. Here’s the background:
• Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp confirmed a report in the Wall Street Journal overnight that it is seriously looking into a split, a move some inside the company have championed for years but which Murdoch himself has resisted. Resurgent talk of a division follows a terrible public relations run for the publishing arm of News Corp, which has been battered in a phone hacking scandal that led to the closure of its oldest paper, News of the World.
• The split would separate the company’s lucrative entertainment wing from its publishing business. The latter would comprise the Times, Sunday Times and the Sun in the UK, as well as the WSJ, the New York Post, The Australian and the book publisher, HarperCollins. The entertainment entity would include the Fox movie, TV studio and TV network businesses, and cable channels such as Fox News.
• The markets responded favorably to the news, with News Corp shares opening up 5.6% as Nasdaq opened Tuesday.
Important to understand what a defeat splitting the company will be for Rupert. on.wsj.com/KAJEDN
— Michael Wolff (@MichaelWolffNYC) June 26, 2012
11.37am: There’s really no way to put a split of News Corp into corporate context because nothing like it has ever happened at the company, the Guardian’s Jason Deans writes:
The restructuring, confirmed on Tuesday following overnight reports in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, would be the biggest corporate upheaval at News Corp since Murdoch founded the global media company more than 30 years ago.
According to a source cited by the New York Times, the Murdoch family would be likely to retain control of the newly split companies.
Such a proposal has been aired in the past, and Murdoch has always rejected it.
However, the negative impact of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal has brought the argument about the diminishing importance of newspapers in News Corp’s global business the top of the agenda and provided a focus for shareholder unrest with the Murdoch family’s management of the company.
The Wall Street Journal notes that “the idea is similar to the split of Viacom Inc. into two companies in 2006, when CBS was carved off as a separate company. In that break up, Viacom’s controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone ended up with control of both companies.”
11.50am: To characterize the prospective reorganization of News Corp as a “split” is misleading if that makes it sound like the company is halving, or splitting down the middle.
In fact the company’s entertainment arm dwarfs the publishing concern by a ratio of around 3-to-1. Here’s the Wall Street Journal (which is part of the News Corp publishing arm) on the current structure of News Corp.:
The entertainment assets make up by far the bulk of the company, contributing three-quarters of the $25.34 billion in revenue for the first nine months of the fiscal year. Those assets accounted for roughly 90% of the operating profit in that period.
In the nine months through March, News Corp.’s various segments together had operating profit of $4.2 billion, of which the publishing division contributed $458 million.
The publishing division itself can be broken down between newspapers and the book publisher HarperCollins. Here’s former Guardian correspondent James Robinson:
If News Corp splits in two shares in its print and publishing arm will plummet faster than Facebook stock after the separation is completed
— james robinson (@jamesro47) June 26, 2012
@JRyan86 asks for a clarification, pointing out that the publishing arm chalked up $458m in profits in the 9 months through March:
@JRyan86 Journal is doing well, Harper Collins OK but UK titles bleeding cash and are toxic. It’s an ‘ex-growth’ business. Worth £2bn max
— james robinson (@jamesro47) June 26, 2012
11.59am: Rich Greenfield, media analyst at global trading firm BTIG, called the prospective bifurcation of News Corp a “stunning” move, my colleague Dominic Rushe reports:
“It’s hard not to be very excited about this,” Greenfield said. He said the newspaper assets were the single biggest reason why investors were avoiding News Corp shares and that even before the hacking scandal investors had been “scared and frustrated” by Murdoch’s attachment to News Corp’s publishing business. “Rupert Murdoch has been viewed as so wedded to the newspaper assets that he wouldn’t even consider separating the company,” he said. “This is a significant positive.”
12.13pm: How much of a drag is the publishing arm of News Corp. seen to be on the rest of the company?
The balance sheet matters, but the real liability of the newspaper business is not in the lemons the company owns but in the crown jewel the company failed to acquire: the British Sky Broadcasting Group.
BSkyB has a market cap of around $18b. News Corp owns 39 percent. As far as Rupert Murdoch, his son James and many News Corp shareholders were concerned, News Corp should have acquired a majority stake in BSkyB. That deal would have been worth a lot, even in News Corp terms.
And that deal very well might have happened, had it not been for the rampant misconduct inside a few relatively shabby, profitless newsrooms under the News Corp umbrella, and the Leveson inquiry that exposed it.
Now the corp wants to fold the umbrella.
12.29pm: How did Rupert Murdoch build News Corp from the Adelaide News into a global multimedia giant? How did his mid-1980s jump into film and TV work? What about his brush with bankruptcy in the early 1990s?
Check out our interactive feature on how News Corp was built, “The eight ages of Rupert Murdoch.” It traces his rise from sub-editor at the Daily Express to his current perch atop the world’s biggest media company.
Looks like the next chapter may be shaping up.
12.36pm: When Rupert Murdoch announced the Sun would begin publishing a Sunday edition, and then personally oversaw the launch in London, the conventional wisdom was seemingly confirmed that the old mogul’s heart still lies in newspapers, his first love.
But is it a love that counts the costs? Looks like we’ll find out.
Spinning off New Corp print division will produce a company with vast losses. Not sure how shareholders could sustain WSJ, Post, Times hole.
— Michael Wolff (@MichaelWolffNYC) June 26, 2012
12.47pm: My colleague Dominic Rushe has spoken with David Joyce, media analyst at Miller Tabak, who considers the prospective News Corp split in light of the continuing Justice Department investigation into its activities in the United States.
The move would still leave News Corp facing the full consequences of the US government’s investigation into the hacking scandal, Joyce told Rushe:
“I don’t think there is any way that they can legally separate themselves from that,” Joyce said. But he said that the move would be welcomed by investors who have long pushed for a split. “The phone hacking scandal has really made this company open up to new ways of thinking. This is a very good move,” he said.
1.15pm: Before the News of the World hacking scandal exploded in Rupert Murdoch’s face, News Corp appeared to be on track to take over BSkyB, an effort our interactive team charted in glorious full color in March 2011.
The graphic breaks down what Murdoch owned in which countries, how big each business was and how a BSkyB acquisition would measure up to other News Corp holdings.
For a full-size image click here.
At the time Simon Rogers reported on the status of the deal:
Rupert Murdoch’s plan to takeover BSkyB looks set to go ahead, now that culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has OK’d News Corporation’s plan to spin off Sky News.
The news subsidiary will be spun off into a new publicly listed company called Newco. That would then allow the proposed £8bn purchase of the 61% of BSkyB it does not already ownNews Corporation is to license the Sky News brand to the operation for seven years, providing an incentive to renew a second funding deal. buy up the rest of BSkyB – he presently controls 39.1% of the company which is increasingly dominating British broadcasting.
What might have been.
1.25pm: Could splitting News Corp open the way for a future BSkyB acquisition attempt?
A former director of the UK Office of Fair Trading tells the Guardian’s Mark Sweney that the new split structure would likely not help any future acquisition bid, because the two companies would still be viewed as one.
Here’s Becket McGrath, partner at Edwards Wildman Palmer and former Office of Fair Trading director of competition enforcement for media, sport and information industries:
The presumption is that separating the newspapers and TV/entertainment operations into two businesses will not make any difference to a plurality analysis if there was another attempt to takeover BSkyB.
The two [new] businesses would still be treated as one group, because according to the report News Corporation will retain a 40% share in both operations.
The only way – and I believe it to be a very, very long shot – is if somehow there was complete management and editorial independence in practice at the two businesses. The concerns the first time were over Sky News and the newspapers, the remedy was to put Sky News at arms length, and if they were to become structurally separated through a News Corp restructure now I still believe it would be avery high bar to prove the same media plurality issues would not apply the second time around. The same people are ultimately controlling both.
To me it seems more like the changing of structure on an organogram, for balance sheet purposes perhaps, it is not uncommon. Although it would certainly make the newspapers easier to sell, if that was a goal, they would effectively be pre-packaged.
1.47pm: BSkyB shareholders are underwhelmed by news of a potential News Corp split, the Guardian’s Nils Pratley observes. Shares of the broadcaster bumped up 2.7% today, a modest gain given the major news. Here’s Nils:
BSkyB investors’ underwhelmed reaction looks to be correct – there’s a world of difference between sustaining an ambition and being in a position to fulfil that ambition. Demerger, in itself, changes nothing. The mere fact that entertainment (containing the broadcasting interests, including the 39% stake in BSkyB) and publishing (containing News International) could be separate companies would surely be regarded as irrelevant by politicians and regulators. The Murdoch family would still have 40% control of both parts.
1.54pm: Michael Wolff has the inside line on today’s news:
This may be the most humble day of Rupert Murdoch’s life. His company seems to be spurning his newspapers, and also his leadership – or at least, his Sun God standing. Early Tuesday morning, News Corporation said, through its newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, that it was considering a spin-off of its print properties. Since using the Journal made this something of an in-house announcement, for “considering” one might better read “actively planning”.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Chase Carey, News Corp’s chief operating officer, was spied yesterday having lunch with Stan Shuman of Allen & Company, one of the company’s long time investment bankers. Lunch was at Michael’s, the media business canteen in New York, where they were sure to be seen – possibly something, in other words, of a victory walk for Carey, who is the primary operator of the entertainment assets which would become the whole of News Corp.
But what of the papers, then? And of Murdoch himself?
The print division made a small profit last year. With the closing of the News of the World, one of its big earners, and with the continued fall in newspaper circulation and advertising, those earnings may be expected to disappear almost immediately. That will leave the three big money losers particularly exposed: the New York Post, the London Times, and the Wall Street Journal. The losses among them might be as great as $250m.
It is almost impossible to imagine that a stand-alone public print company would not have to quickly cut costs and dispose of those assets that do not have a credible path to profitability. Indeed, for each of News Corp’s newspapers, protected so long by the company’s vast diversification, being spun off, instead of sold to enthusiastic bidders, might be their worse fate.
Read the piece in its entirety here.
2.06pm: Clare Enders, founder of the media research company Enders Analysis, tells the Guardian’s Lisa O’Carroll that a News Corp split could represent a “seismic” change for British newspapers and the thousands of staff in Wapping. Here’s Lisa:
“Splitting off a business that is close to Rupert Murdoch’s heart and represents the foundation of the company’s original wealth is historic,” Enders said. “Essentially the causality of this is driven by the view that the newspaper issues in the UK here are dragging down the valuation of the company’s TV assets, which have had an outstanding year. This is despite the fact that company stock has gone up by more than 50% in the last year despite the phone hacking. Some people believe that if the TV assets were run on a standalone basis the valuation would be higher.”
Enders said she had understood that the leak to the Wall Street Journal was “inadvertent” and that the company was at the early stages of considering the strategy.
“No one has looked into the asset structure but more iumportantly it’s not entirely sure that it would actually work or happen in due course but looking at it for the first time and officially is an historic step.”
She said speculation coming from the City that this was a prelude to a renewed bid for BSkyB was wrong. However she believes that this strategy has James Murdoch’s fingerprints all over it, even though it represents a complete shift from strategy a year ago when he was pushing for a cross platform multi-media experience bundling newspaper and TV content in subscription packages.
“He is a corporate action man,” she said. “He’s a doer”.
3.03pm: Winds of change blowing through News Corp:
Don’t think anyone would have expected Chase (I bend, when Rupert blows) Carey to come out on top. tinyurl.com/7qx4jas
— Michael Wolff (@MichaelWolffNYC) June 26, 2012
3.30pm: Amy Chozick reports in the New York Times that top News Corp executives are meeting today in New York to discuss splitting the company.
Chozick taps anonymous sources inside the meeting to describe who would run the new companies. The new publishing division could include “a newly formed education division run by Joel Klein, the former New York schools chancellor and a trusted adviser to Mr. Murdoch,” Chozick writes.
The Deal Book report continues:
News Corporation management is likely to remain in place, under [Chase] Carey and James Murdoch, currently the deputy chief operating officer. Rupert Murdoch would potentially serve as chairman of both companies, though a person close to the company cautioned that no executive decisions have been made.
The executive ladder of the separate company has not been established. But two people close to the company said Robert Thomson — editor in chief of The Journal and managing editor of its parent company, Dow Jones & Company, and a close confidant of Rupert Murdoch’ s — is a possible candidate.
“Dow Jones is the trophy asset so it make sense,” one of these people said.
4.00pm: We’re going to wrap up our live blog coverage of the News Corp schism. Here’s a summary of the latest developments:
• Rupert Murdoch and other top News Corp executives are meeting in New York today to discuss spinning off the company’s publishing activities into a separate company, a move shareholders, if not Murdoch himself, are thought to favor. News Corp stock jumped 8.3% on the news.
• The Murdoch family would likely retain control of both companies with an estimated 40% voting stake.
• The new publishing company would include the Times of London, the Sun, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, The Australian and the book publisher HarperCollins. The entertainment entity would include the Fox movie, TV studio and TV network businesses, and cable channels such as Fox News.
• Spinning off its news division will not give News Corp a better chance at taking full control of BSkyB, the British broadcaster, according to a former regulator, unless the ownership structure of the two new companies changes significantly. Shareholder displeasure over the News of the World phone-hacking scandal and foiled BSkyB takeover bid was seen as a primary driver of the plan.
• Skepticism was rife as to the ability of News Corp’s publishing arm to go it alone without a boost from the profitable TV and film division. The move, writes Michael Wolff, “will leave the three big money losers particularly exposed: the New York Post, the London Times, and the Wall Street Journal. The losses among them might be as great as $250m.”
Culture secretary’s evidence to Leveson inquiry reveals extent of relationships with key players in News Corp’s bid for BSkyB
Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt was grilled for six hours at the Leveson inquiry and his evidence touched on phone-hacking, his meetings with the Murdochs, the role of his former special adviser Adam Smith and whether he really did hide behind a tree.
On James Murdoch
Secret phone calls and chummy texts congratulating James Murdoch after Brussels passed his £8bn BSkyB bid were among the most damaging revelations.
The inquiry heard how he chatted with Murdoch on 15 November 2010 – the very day he received “strong legal advice” not to get involved in the process, something that Hunt thought was “entirely appropriate”.
They had a second, hitherto unknown, phone chat on 21 December, just hours before Hunt inherited responsibility for overseeing the bid when business secretary Vince Cable was stripped of the role after being recorded by undercover reporters saying he had “declared war on Mr Murdoch”.
But it was the text exchange with Murdoch earlier that same day setting up the telephone chat that initially looked like the torpedo that would finish Hunt’s career. “Congrats on Brussels. Just Ofcom to go!” Hunt texted just before 1pm on 21 December.
Weeks earlier Hunt had written to David Cameron to tell him that Murdoch was “furious” with Cable’s decision to refer the BSkyB bid to Ofcom, the broadcasting watchdog, and this was confirmation that Hunt shared his frustration.
When the pair finally chatted on the phone at 4pm, the Cable story had broken and Murdoch told him he was “totally horrified” that this seemed to show the business secretary was anti-Murdoch from the start.
Hunt promptly fired off emails and texts to Andy Coulson, then Downing Street head of communications, and George Osborne warning that Cable could have “screwed up” the bid.
Hunt agreed he was “sympathetic” with the bid but claimed there was nothing inappropriate since the “congrats” text happened before he took charge of the quasi-judicial process and he was able to “set aside” his feelings and be “scrupulously fair” once he inherited the role.
But the texting didn’t stop. In March, after News Corp announced its undertakings to keep Sky News independent of the company, Murdoch texted him to say: “Big few days. Well played. JRM.” Hunt fired back: “Thanks. Think we got right solution”.
Hunt protested his innocence claiming this did not show bias. “I though it was something of an olive branch because my previous two contacts with Mr Murdoch had been very difficult.” On 31 March there was another text – this time Hunt congratulating Murdoch on a promotion that would take him back to New York. “I am sure you will really miss Ofcom,” he joked.
The inquiry heard how the November 2010 calls came despite legal advice that it would be “unwise” for Hunt to get involved as it could “raise the risk of challenge to a decision” further down the line. Hunt told the inquiry he felt the call was “entirely appropriate to hear what a big player in my industry was saying about a particular situation”. He spoke to Murdoch on the phone after a face-to-face meeting was cancelled on legal advice.
Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry, put it to him: “If a meeting is inappropriate … why is a telephone call appropriate?”
Hunt batted straight back: “Well, I didn’t see the telephone call as a replacement for the meeting.”
Pressed on the issue, the culture secretary admitted that he should not have had the private, unminuted call.
“Having been through the BSkyB bid and the process that I’ve been through, I would take a different view about the presence of officials in conversations that a culture secretary has with media proprietors.”
On Adam Smith
Hunt described Smith as a “very uncomplaining, decent hard-working person” for whom he had the “highest regard”. But he said his former special adviser had to go because of his “inappropriate contact” with News Corporation lobbyist Fred Michel.
The pair’s relationship came under scrutiny after the publication of emails which appeared to show he had given Michel inside information on ministerial thinking over the BSyB bid.
The culture secretary said he “didn’t see Mr Smith in this process as being someone who would be telling me what News Corp thought or telling News Corp what I thought. I saw him as a point of contact … in a very complex process.”
But he admitted Smith, who worked with Hunt for nearly six years, had not been given “any express instructions” as to what his exact role should be.
Hunt blamed the “pressure” that Smith was put under by Michel and a “barrage” of texts and emails.
“We weren’t expecting 542 text messages to Mr Smith … when you do the analysis it looks like Mr Michel was trying to contact Mr Smith five times every working day, which is an extraordinary amount we didn’t anticipate at all,” said Hunt.
“The barrage … ended up pushing him into certain situations and language that wasn’t appropriate,” added Hunt.
“I am sorry for him actually. I was totally shocked when I discovered the level of that contact and I think it explains why he sometimes slipped into inappropriate language.”
Hunt said it was with a “very, very heavy heart” that he had accepted Smith’s offer to resign, having initially told him that he did not think it would be necessary.
“I doubt there’s a minister who worked
Labour leader says latest Leveson evidence shows culture secretary should not have had responsibility for BSkyB takeover
David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt face “huge” questions over their handling of News Corporation’s BSkyB takeover in the wake of the latest evidence to the Leveson inquiry, Ed Miliband has said.
The Labour leader said this week’s disclosures provided “yet more” evidence that Hunt, the culture secretary, should not have been given responsibility for the deal.
He cited in particular the publication of a memo in which Hunt made private representations to Cameron supporting News Corp’s bid to take full control of BSkyB.
The document, sent just weeks before Hunt was given quasi-judicial oversight of the bid, expressed concerns that referring the bid to Ofcom could leave the government “on the wrong side of media policy”.
Miliband, speaking in Afghanistan where he has been visiting British troops and holding talks with the president, Hamid Karzai, said: “From what I have seen from the material I have read on this, I think we have got yet more evidence that Jeremy Hunt wasn’t the right person to be taking forward the decision about the BSkyB bid.
“He wrote a memo to the prime minister for the bid four weeks or so before taking charge of it and I think it really calls into question David Cameron’s judgment about why he appointed him in the first place to take over this bid.
“Here is somebody who was an advocate within government for the bid, so there are huge questions for David Cameron to answer.
“And there are yet more questions for Jeremy Hunt to answer. I mean, why did he tell the House of Commons that he wasn’t intervening in this issue when he wasn’t responsible for it when, in fact, he was?
“There are just a whole series of mounting questions and we do need answers.”
Hunt is also facing embarrassment over disclosures about his personal dealings with the News Corp lobbyist Frédéric Michel, whom he addressed as “daddy” and “mon ami” in dozens of jokey text messages.
In exchanges released at the inquiry on Friday, Michel responded with flattering comments about the culture secretary’s “stamina” and “great” performances in TV interviews and the Commons.
Hunt also assured Michel, then European director of public affairs for Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, there was “nothing u won’t like” in an upcoming speech.
At least 67 texts were sent between the two men from 21 June 2010 until 3 July 2011, the period when News Corp was seeking to take over the satellite broadcaster BSkyB.
On Friday Cameron defended giving Hunt responsibility for the decision on News Corp’s takeover bid.
“I don’t regret giving the job to Jeremy Hunt. It was the right thing to do in the circumstances, which were not of my making,” he said.
Hunt was given the role after the business secretary, Vince Cable, was stripped of the responsibility over comments made to undercover reporters. The prime minister told ITV’s This Morning: “The crucial point, the really crucial point, is did Jeremy Hunt carry out his role properly with respect to BSkyB and I believe that he did.”
Ex-civil service chief tells Leveson inquiry fairness was crucial in BSkyB bid, while Alastair Campbell denies Blair-Murdoch deal
The former head of the civil service, Lord O’Donnell, has told the Leveson inquiry that the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, should have known if his special adviser was giving feedback to News Corporation on its controversial £8bn takeover bid for BSkyB.
He told the inquiry into press ethics that ministers and secretaries of state should know exactly what their special advisers are doing, particularly in relation to quasi-judicial decisions. “I would have expected the minister to be clear about what he thought his special adviser should be doing,” he said.
Labour has already called for Hunt to resign after it emerged that his special adviser, Adam Smith, was passing on regular feedback and updates on the culture secretary’s alleged attitude towards the bid. On one occasion, a News International lobbyist was even given a preview of a statement to parliament on the matter.
Asked about the exchanges, O’Donnell told Leveson that if ministers or their special advisers were passing on information to outside interests, they should have been passing it on to all involved, to avert court action from any of the parties. “You should make sure that the same information is passed on all parties in a case. This is not least to protect against a future judicial review, so fairness is absolutely crucial to what happened,” he said.
Hunt has insisted it was not he but Smith who had the back channel of communication with News Corp and he intends to defend his conduct before the Leveson inquiry.
A DCMS spokesperson said Jeremy Hunt would submit his evidence to the Leveson inquiry as planned. “This is a full public inquiry, established under powers granted by parliament, which has cross-party support. It is in the public interest that the inquiry is able to continue its investigation. There is no question of the secretary of state not fulfilling his obligations to parliament – he has answered a number of parliamentary questions on this issue, as well as having made an oral statement in the House.”
Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former press secretary, who was testifying for the second time at the inquiry, defended three phone calls the former prime minister had with Rupert Murdoch in the run up to the Iraq war in 2003.
Campbell said that at the time virtually all the newspapers in Britain were hostile to Blair and the media baron, who was pro-war, might have called him to let him know he was supporting Number 10.
Asked why Blair made time for the calls during a frantic period of diplomacy, Campbell said he wasn’t privy to the conversation but that Murdoch “was kind of signalling that ‘you know, I’m your, kind of, the last one standing” and would support his decision to go to war.
He added: “I think it is a combination of Rupert Murdoch trying to find out what is going on and also probably saying, ‘You know, we’re going to support you on this.’”
He denied that Blair had struck a deal with Murdoch when he flew to Hayman Island, in Australia, to address a News Corp conference before the 1997 election. “The Sun backed us because they knew we were going to win. We did not win because they backed us.”
O’Donnell’s remarks come amid renewed anger in the House of Commons that Hunt has decided to explain himself to Leveson and not first to parliament.
Parliament should be “pre-eminent” in receiving documents and evidence about the behaviour of ministers, the speaker, John Bercow, has told the Commons.
Tory MP Edward Leigh also protested that parliament was playing second fiddle to Leveson. “When we have inquiries like Leveson, they are given everything. Surely the time has come to proclaim this truth, that this House is supreme and sovereign and we should get everything first?”
News International hit back at suggestions that Murdoch suffered “selective amnesia” regarding a lunch at Chequers with Margaret Thatcher to discuss his proposed purchase of the Times and Sunday Times in 1981.
In a strongly worded statement to the Leveson inquiry on Monday morning, Rhodri Davies QC, counsel for the Times and Sunday Times publisher, said “Mr Murdoch has nothing to lie about”.
He said the idea that the deal happened “because of a nod and a wink from Mrs Thatcher” over lunch was “science fiction”.
Davies said the papers would have been shut down by the owners, Thomson, had no buyer has stepped in because of problems with unions and there was no documentary evidence to back up suggestions made by the Leveson inquiry counsel, Robert Jay QC, that Thatcher had somehow made the deal happen.
It had been suggested that Thatcher’s trade secretary, John Biffen, declined to refer Murdoch’s proposed purchase to competition authorities because he had warned Thatcher that a referral would have scuppered the deal.
“That … Mr Biffen paid no regard to the deadline imposed by Thomson, but instead declined to make a referral to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission because of a nod and a wink from Mrs Thatcher who was in turn acting on the basis of an unspoken request from Mr Murdoch … To call this thesis speculation is to use too dignified a term,” said Davies.
He made the statement to counter the opening statement remarks made by Jay last week when he launched the third module of the inquiry, which is dealing with the relationship between politicians and the media.
Davies said it was “against the rules” of the inquiry to make remarks about a witness after he had given his testimony.
He added that it was a “desperate assertion” to say “that Murdoch must be lying when he says that he does not remember anything about” the Chequers lunch.