Despite being media publishers, the Murdoch family themselves tend to like to do business without shouting about it. Rupert Murdoch has previously held secret meetings with Theresa May in New York and David Cameron numerous times away from the public gaze at 10 Downing Street. And like father, like sons it has today emerged that James and Lachlan Murdoch have been playing secret squirrels over at Ofcom HQ.
The topic, of course, is getting the controlling share of Sky, a company that Murdoch's 21st Century Fox currently owns a little under 40% of.
The problem is that when Murdoch first tried to buy up the rest of Sky, the phone-hacking scandal broke. This created some severe embarrassment for the Murdochs and News International which led to a corporate restructure and the closure of The News Of The World. News International is now out of the TV business and focuses only on newspapers and publishing and is known as News UK - Fox is now a completely separate company (though both News UK and Fox are still owned by Uncle Rupert).
Now it's up to Ofcom to decide if it will approve the sale of Sky to the Murdochs. As part of that consideration, it will need to decide if 21st Century Fox owning Sky would distort the market or affect the impartiality of Sky News. It also needs to decide if Rupert Murdoch is “fit and proper” to own 100% of the TV mega-corp. This is a harder test to pass because it will fall to Ofcom to make this call based on judgement more than facts.
And it will certainly be an interesting judgement. Just as 21st Century Fox announced that it was hoping to spend £11.7bn on Sky it emerged that now-dead Fox News founder Roger Ailes was being investigated for sexual harassment. As if that wasn't enough, more recently the company then had to fire Fox News firebrand Bill O'Reilly after advertisers pulled out of his show amid more claims of sexual harassment. Oops.
Still, it seems that Murdoch might be able to get a good deal if Ofcom do allow him to buy the rest of Sky. Unsurprisingly, the Brexit vote (which was championed by Murdoch's papers) destroyed the value of the pound and Sky lost £2.5bn in value against the now strengthened US dollar.
So will the man who Lily Allen once described as "Voldemort" get his way? Will he be able to able to fully use Sky to top-up his Scrooge McDuck-style gold silo? We await the decision with interest. [Via The Telegraph]