Rupert Murdoch is moving into the online real estate business.
Murdoch's News Corp. announced a deal Tuesday to buy Move Inc., operator of Realtor.com, the nation's third-largest real estate listings website, for $950 million. The purchase, expected to close by the end of the year, would put the parent company of the Wall Street Journal in direct competition with online listing giants Zillow and Trulia, rivals who themselves announced a merger agreement in July.
News Corp. has been working to diversify beyond its core business of print newspapers, such as the Wall Street Journal and New York Post. This deal would give it a piece of the fast-growing online real estate advertising industry. Real estate ads are a $14 billion-a-year business, and dollars have been flowing fast from print publications to online and mobile platforms that provide searchable, mappable, real-time listings.
"This acquisition will accelerate News Corp.'s digital and global expansion and contribute to the transformation of our company, making online real estate a powerful pillar of our portfolio," said the company's chief executive, Robert Thomson.
Right now, though, the firm News Corp. is acquiring sits in third place in a fast-consolidating industry. Realtor.com is affiliated with the National Assn. of Realtors and most of the nation's multiple listing services, but draws fewer unique monthly visitors than either Zillow or Trulia. Those two companies in July announced a $3.5-billion merger, which is currently being reviewed by antitrust regulators.
Executives at Move and News Corp. said their combo would beef up the site's software and subscription operations and its visibility, while bringing News Corp. a new, high-traffic platform on which to advertise its media properties.
"We certainly expect this deal to amount to far more than the sum of the parts," Thomson said.
Shares of News Corp. were down a bit in early trading Tuesday, while Move Inc. stock climbed sharply on news of the deal.