The board of directors at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. has approved a plan that calls for splitting the global media conglomerate into two separate companies, one holding its newspaper business and another its entertainment operations, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
The WSJ, which is News Corp.’s flagship newspaper, cited a person familiar with the situation late Wednesday saying the board voted unanimously to approve the plan. It said the move is expected to be announced on early Thursday.
News Corp. spokeswoman Julie Henderson had no comment on the report.
The New York-based company confirmed on Tuesday that it was weighing the plan. Its stock has jumped 11 per cent since the news of the proposed split emerged.
Under the proposal, News Corp. will be divided into two publicly traded companies. One entity will operate as a newspaper and book publishing firm. The other will be an entertainment company that includes Fox News channel, the Fox broadcast TV network and the 20th Century Fox movie studio.
The publishing side is expected to be much smaller, with some analysts valuing it at about $5 billion, compared to the current market value for News Corp. as a whole of about $54 billion.
Industry analysts say the faster growing pay-TV segment would be valued more highly by new investors not willing to buy shares in a company burdened by a newspaper industry in decline.
A question remains, however, about which entity would bear the financial risks of the ongoing U.K. probe into phone hacking and bribery. Besides legal costs, News Corp. also faces potential fines in the U.S. under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which punishes companies that have bribed officials abroad.
British authorities have been probing allegations that News Corp. journalists at its now-shuttered News of the World and other papers hacked into phones and bribed public officials to gain exclusive information.
The splitting of News Corp. would be a symbolic turning point for its 81-year-old CEO. Mr. Murdoch’s media empire was built on the foundation of a single Australian newspaper he inherited from his father.