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Murdoch Jr has big India plans

May 14, 2007 14:15 IST

He has suddenly developed a business interest in India. Lachlan Keith Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch's elder son, was in Mumbai last week to partner Percept Holdings, a communications company, in a 50:50 joint venture for a celebrity management outfit called Percept Talent management. The 36-year-old has invested in the JV through his personal company, Illyria Pty Ltd.

Illyria was set up after Lachlan Murdoch resigned from News Corporation in July 2005 following serious differences with his father. However, Illyria kept a low profile, investing quietly in a DVD rental company called QuickFlicks and an online advertising company called Spot Runner.

Come August (2007) and neither Lachlan Murdoch nor his companies will need to be low profile any longer. For, Murdoch Junior will be free for a full-blooded foray into the media and entertainment business as the non-compete clause he signed while exiting his father's business empire expires.

Media experts in India expect Murdoch to invest nearly Rs 1,000 crore (Rs 10 billion) in India. "He is keen on media in the Asia region and is said to have earmarked Rs 2,000 crore (Rs 20 billion) for investing in relevant businesses," says a broadcast industry expert. Part of the money for India is also said to fund INX Media, the company run by former Star India CEO Peter Mukerjea's wife.

Mukerjea, who insists that he's divorced from INX Media, refuses to discuss Murdoch Junior or his business plans. "He is a good friend and a very private person," he says frostily. People in Star concede that the two are close friends - Lachlan visited Peter Mukerjea twice in November 2006 and the former CEO also went to Australia for Christmas.

For the time being, Murdoch is tapping India's celebrity management business and expects his talent company to deliver a top line of $30 million in the first year of operation.

His alliance with Percept could extend to cover other areas as well considering Percept Holding's joint managing director Shailendra Singh is quite impressed with him. "Lachlan Murdoch is a smart and savvy businessman. He has a tremendous vision in the media and entertainment space," he points out.

Singh says that Murdoch is eyeing India as he's bullish on the "energy that the Indian economy is displaying. He is also buoyed by the fact that by 2010 India will be the youngest nation and that youth is the focus here."

Top Star executives who happened to interact with Lachlan on his India visits say that he has his father's sharpness and risk-taking ability. "However, he displays a better understanding of the print media rather than of broadcasting. Television is younger brother James Murdoch's forte," says a Star source who's met the two Murdoch Juniors over the years.

It's not difficult to see why Lachlan is a keen newspaper man. At a very young age he started visiting his father's newspaper units where he cleaned the printing presses. Later, he worked as a sub-editor at The Sun and The Times.

At 22, he became general manager of Queensland Newspapers, which publishes The Courier-Mail in Brisbane. A year later, he became publisher of Australia's first national newspaper, The Australian, which he is said to have turned into a success. In 1996 he was appointed executive director of News Corp.

Born to Rupert Murdoch and his second wife Anna, Lachlan grew up in Manhattan and went to the exclusive Aspen Country Day school. A Bachelor in Philosophy from Princeton University, he is married to Australian model Sara O' Hare and has two sons.
Shuchi Bansal in New Delhi
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