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Murdoch relies on Indian-origin CFO in taxing times

Last updated on: December 7, 2012 11:47 IST

Murdoch relies on Indian-origin CFO in taxing times

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Gaurav Laghate in Mumbai


Rupert Murdoch-controlled News Corp rejigged its top brass as it announced plans to split the company into two, one to look after its publishing portfolio and the other, for the media and entertainment unit. Bedi Ajay Singh took over as the chief financial officer of the publishing arm.

Earlier this week, Rupert Murdoch-controlled News Corp rejigged its top brass as it announced plans to split the company into two, one to look after its publishing portfolio and the other, for the media and entertainment unit.

The split has largely been driven by financial considerations. Investors had been making a case for it for a long time now as the publishing arm, which has newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal, The Times (London) and The New York Times, accounts for less than 10 per cent of the operating profits for the group.

The rest of the profits come from the company's entertainment holdings, such as Fox broadcasting, 20th Century Fox Film and STAR TV.

In this scenario, the biggest challenge for Bedi Ajay Singh, the new India-origin chief financial officer (CFO) of the publishing arm, will be to ensure its survival independent of the media and entertainment unit.

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Image: Inset of Bedi Ajay Singh against News Corporation building in New York
Photographs: Keith Bedford/Reuters (for News Corporation building)

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Analysts believe Bedi's role will be even more crucial as Robert Thompson, the chief executive officer (CEO) of the publishing business, earlier the editor-in-chief at Dow Jones and managing editor at The Wall Street Journal, has little experience of the financial side of the business.

Bedi, on the other hand, has been a finance person through and through. He was most recently serving as co-CEO and president - finance and administration - and chief financial officer for MGM Studios, a US-based media company mostly involved in film production and distribution.

In his new role, in addition to the group's newspapers, Bedi will oversee the finances of the group's Australian assets, which include TV stations and newspapers in Australia, book publisher Harper Collins and an education division.

A fellow of the UK Institute of Chartered Accountants and a graduate from the London School of Economics, Singh comes with over 32 years of experience, having started his career with Arthur Andersen in UK, in 1980.

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Image: CEO of the publishing business Robert Thomson,
Photographs: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

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In 1991, he joined News International, News Corp's UK subsidiary. After four years, he was moved to Murdoch's Los Angeles office, as senior vice-president. He also worked as strategic planning and deputy CFO at 20th Century Fox.

Bedi left the group in 1999 to join Sony Pictures Entertainment as executive vice-president and CFO. He also worked with Novartis as chief financial and administrative officer and with Gemstar-TV Guide as executive vice-president and CFO. In 2008, he shifted to MGM Studios.

As proposed, News Corp is splitting into two publicly-traded companies with Murdoch as the chairman of both. While announcing the structure, Murdoch had said, "We will build on our traditional mission to inform, entertain and enhance the lives of readers and viewers around the world, and relentlessly drive global growth by promoting excellence and investing in our businesses."

The challenges facing Murdoch's media industry are immense. In addition to the financial problems, the publishing business is also mired in ethical and legal issues.

There was the phone-tapping scandal in the UK. The incident also shook shareholders' confidence in the company and many of them wanted a change at the top.


Image: News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch
Photographs: Lionel Bonaventure/Reuters

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