Thomson to head News Corp, 'Daily' to fold
The Daily ... end of the road. Photo: Jonathan Fickies
Rupert Murdoch has named Robert Thomson as the new boss of News Corp's new, separate, publishing arm - and announced that The Daily, its $US50 million iPad news experiment, would fold.
News Corp did not disclose any financial details related to the spin off, such as how much cash and debt will be ascribed to the new publishing company, or appoint a board of directors.
Also absent from the announcement was any mention of Lachlan Murdoch, Rupert’s eldest son, who News Corp watchers and industry experts thought might be recruited back into the family business, given his previous success as publisher of the New York Post.
Gerard Baker, currently The Wall Street Journal’s deputy editor-in-chief, will succeed Thomson as managing editor of the paper and editor-in-chief of its publisher Dow Jones.
Mr Thomson, who is taking the reins on January 1, will now oversee a stable of assets that includes TV stations and newspapers in Australia, the Wall Street Journal, New York Post, The Times of London, as well as book publisher Harper Collins and a nascent education group.
His ascension comes at a difficult time for print media. Newspapers face tough challenges as advertisers look elsewhere and people increasingly prefer smartphones and tablets to ink and paper.
While Mr Thomson, an Australian, is a long time newspaper executive, including US editor of the Financial Times and editor of The Times, his experience has been mostly in the newsroom.
Now, however, he will have to decide what to do with the financially struggling New York Post, whether to seek a merger partner for Harper Collins and if the new company will acquire US newspapers that could come onto the market, such as the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune.
‘‘The timing is interesting in that it comes out ahead of the finalisation of Tribune coming out of bankruptcy,’’ said Ken Doctor, an analyst with Outsell Research.
‘‘If the new News Corp is going to be a bidder for the Los Angeles Times or the Chicago Tribune or other papers, to get this duck in a row and to get Thomson in place sets that up in a better way.’’
Despite Mr Thomson’s minimal experience dealing with analysts and investors, Evercore Partners analyst Alan Gould said that will not be a problem if he surrounds himself with strong financial managers.
Indeed, News Corp named former MGM Studios president Bedi Ajay Singh as the publishing unit’s chief financial officer on Monday.
However, by keeping the News Corp name for the publishing company and by choosing Mr Thomson, Mr Murdoch is selecting a trusted editorial lieutenant to tend to the medium that played a leading role in building his empire and is closest to his heart.
‘‘Many of you know that a belief in the power of the written word has been in my bones for my entire life,’’ Mr Murdoch, News Corp’s chairman, wrote in a memo to employees.
‘‘I witnessed the hunger people had for well-written, thoroughly observed stories ... stories that provide not just information, but insight. That hunger is alive and well today; my personal mission is to serve and satisfy the human need for insight as well as I possibly can.’’
Goodbye to ’The Daily’
The Daily, which made a splashy debut with a news conference at the Guggenheim museum in New York almost two years ago, will publish its last digital edition on December 15. But the brand will ‘‘live on in other channels,’’ News Corp said in a statement.
The ambitious project was a test to see if people would subscribe to a digital newspaper. When News Corp launched it in 2011, it said it spent about $US30 million to start it up, and estimated that operating costs would amount to about half a million dollars per week, or about $US26 million a year.
‘‘We can and must make the business of news gathering and editing viable again,’’ Mr Murdoch said at the launch event for the digital newspaper in New York in February 2011. ‘‘We’re entering a remarkable age of innovation and digital renaissance.’’
Jesse Angelo, founding editor of The Daily, will become publisher of the New York Post, while Greg Clayman, publisher of The Daily, will oversee the company’s digital strategy.
Current New York Post publisher Paul Carlucci will now focus solely on the company’s marketing arm, News America Marketing, as its chairman.
In addition to those appointments, News Corp announced that Mike Darcey would lead its British newspaper arm, News International, after chief executive Tom Mockridge said on Sunday he was leaving the company at the end of the year.
Mr Mockridge’s name was floated among media watchers as a potential candidate to lead the new publishing company.
Paul Cheesbrough was named chief technology officer of the new publishing company.
As previously announced, Mr Murdoch will serve as chairman of both the publishing company and its larger and faster-growing entertainment unit, to be called Fox Group. Chase Carey will be president and chief operating officer of the Fox Group, while James Murdoch will continue as deputy chief operating officer.
In June, News Corp announced it would separate its publishing and entertainment assets in a process likely to occur by early summer.
In New York trade overnight, News Corp shares closed down 8 cents at $US25.14.
Reuters with AAP