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Murdochs’ Separation Unlikely to Affect Business

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Wall Street on Tuesday shrugged off the news that media baron Rupert Murdoch and his wife, Anna, are separating, and analysts and Hollywood executives said they don’t foresee the split creating problems for Murdoch’s family-controlled empire.

Murdoch’s News Corp. confirmed a report by gossip columnist Liz Smith that the Murdochs are separating after 31 years of marriage. Anna Murdoch is a board member of News Corp., which is 31% owned by the Murdoch family.

News Corp. shares closed at $28.63, down 44 cents on the New York Stock Exchange.

News Corp. was exceptionally guarded in commenting on the development, calling it a private matter. But a source at the company said executives do not expect the separation to have a major impact on its operation.

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A native of Australia who now makes Los Angeles his primary residence, Murdoch has put together a global empire that includes newspapers, satellite television, the Fox network, the 20th Century Fox studio and, most recently, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Murdoch also is seeking to buy minority interests in the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team and the Los Angeles Kings hockey team, and is involved in a partnership that is buying 40% of the new Staples Center, where the two teams will play.

Murdoch, 67, has taken steps to pass on the company eventually to his children, and analysts and executives said that they believe Anna Murdoch will fully support that transition.

“This is a legacy kind of company. The legacy will be passed to the children,” said Gary Farber, an analyst with Cowen & Co.

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Murdoch’s eldest son, Lachlan, has been designated as his heir, and his daughter Elisabeth and another son, James, also work in the Murdoch empire. Murdoch’s daughter Prudence, from a previous marriage, does not work in the business, although her husband works for Murdoch in London.

One concern raised by some executives is whether the separation will be a distraction at a company where Murdoch has the first and last word about each major decision.

One reason analysts and executives can’t predict the effect the Murdochs’ separation will have on the business is that no one knows if the rift will end in divorce. What little is being said about the separation is emphasizing that the Murdochs will try to patch up their differences.


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