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November 2004

Rupert Murdoch, the world’s most powerful media baron, has traveled far and wide since inheriting, at age 22, a modest newspaper business from which he has created a global empire. But until now, he has always returned for News Corp.’s annual meeting in Adelaide, the Australian city where he got his start. That era ended this fall, when shareholders voted overwhelmingly to shift the group’s corporate headquarters and main market listing from Australia to the United States.

Murdoch’s decision to move not only provoked a standoff over corporate governance that almost derailed his plans, but has also triggered plenty of angst in a country whose relatively small population and geographical isolation make it prone to fears of marginalization. “For some, [the move] will reinforce the sense of losing relevance,” said Gerard Minack, equity strategist at ABN Amro in Sydney.

In reality, many Australians had long viewed News Corp.’s departure as inevitable. The group controls about 75 percent of the newspaper market in Australia, but its local operations are not much more than a footnote in the Murdoch empire. And with the Australian economy in its 14th year of expansion and the stock market at record levels, many observers say concerns about relevance are groundless.

It was in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, just over 50 years ago that Murdoch, fresh from Oxford University (where he dabbled in left-wing politics) began his career after his father’s unexpected death. From this provincial base, he launched The Australian, the only national broadsheet, a decade later and plotted his first moves into the entertainment sector.

He later returned to England, where he bought The Sun and The Times. In the 1970s, he moved to New York, becoming a U.S. citizen in 1985 to further his business interests.

News Corp. hopes its shift to the U.S. and inclusion in the Standard & Poor’s 500 will help it bring more access to the world’s biggest capital markets. This should provide extra firepower to finance even more ambitious deals.

Virginia Marsh, Financial Times

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