DealBook Briefing: Inside the Deep Fissures of the Murdoch Empire


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A lengthy investigation by the NYT Magazine reveals how much power the Murdoch media empire wields around the world — and the fissures that have grown within the family that controls it.

The Murdochs hold sway over right-wing politicians worldwide. President Trump is famously an avid consumer of Fox News. And The Sun, a British tabloid, was one of the most influential voices in favor of Britain’s withdrawal from the E.U.

Their power is strongest in Australia. Murdoch properties in the country have both pushed to repeal a carbon tax and helped topple a series of prime ministers.

Seeing Fox News as an arm of Mr. Trump’s White House misses a larger picture. “It may be more accurate to say that the White House — just like the prime ministers’ offices in Britain and Australia — is just one tool among many that this family use to exert influence over world events.”

The clan is fracturing. Lachlan Murdoch, who is now C.E.O. of the Fox Corporation, which controls the family’s remaining holdings, fought the effort to sell most of the company to Disney. He suspected his brother, James, of putting himself above the family. The two now barely speak to each other.

Several siblings wanted to get out altogether. James and two sisters, Elisabeth and Prudence, offered to sell their holdings in Fox to Lachlan. Rupert Murdoch is said to have encouraged the move, but Lachlan ultimately backed off — raising questions about his commitment to the company.

David Solomon, the Wall Street bank’s chief, was spotted in Saudi Arabia recently, according to Bloomberg. It’s the latest sign that American businesses are ready to work with the kingdom again, months after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

• Mr. Solomon is “the first head of a global U.S. bank known to have traveled to the country” since the outrage over Mr. Khashoggi’s death last year, according to Bloomberg.

• It shows a change in attitude within American companies toward Saudi Arabia. Last fall, Mr. Solomon was one of several executives to spurn the kingdom’s investment conference.

• “Inside Goldman Sachs, senior executives have indicated Saudi Arabia offers a more promising environment for growing the investment bank’s business than other parts of the Middle East, according to one senior Goldman banker.”

• Goldman is among the banks advising Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund on Aramco’s $69 billion purchase of a stake in Sabic.

President Trump is still complaining about the Fed and its chairman, Jay Powell, to anyone who will listen, the WSJ reports — even to Mr. Powell himself.

• At three meetings this past week, Mr. Trump told Republican senators, supporters and staffers that if not for the central bank’s rate increases, “economic output and stocks would be higher and the U.S. budget deficit would be rising less.”

• On a March 8 phone call, an unnamed source said, Mr. Trump told Mr. Powell himself: “I guess I’m stuck with you.”

• Mr. Trump cast some blame for choosing Mr. Powell as Fed chairman on his Treasury secretary. “Mnuchin gave me this guy,” Mr. Trump said at one gathering.

• The president’s complaints came even as the Fed did two things he wanted: It paused its interest rate increases — in fact, it may be getting ready to cut rates — and stopped shrinking its asset portfolio.

Senior American and Chinese officials are to meet today in Washington for the latest round of trade talks. Much progress has reportedly been made, but the I.M.F. and the W.T.O. both say that missteps could prove costly for the global economy.

“Officials have resolved most of the issues standing in the way of a deal to end their long-running trade dispute,” according to the FT. Later today, Liu He, China’s vice premier, is to meet Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative, and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, to continue discussions.

Crucial details need to be hashed out. “The two sides remain apart on two key issues — the fate of existing U.S. levies on Chinese goods, which Beijing wants to see removed, and the terms of an enforcement mechanism demanded by Washington to ensure that China abides by the deal,” the FT adds.

Striking an effective agreement is important, according to Christine Lagarde of the I.M.F. “Nobody wins a trade war,” she said in Washington yesterday. “That is why we need to work together to reduce trade barriers and modernize the global trade system.” And the W.T.O. said that a slowdown in global trade would continue through this year. “It is increasingly urgent that we resolve tensions,” said Roberto Azevêdo, the body’s director general.

If there is a breakthrough, President Trump and President Xi Jinping of China could sign a deal as soon as this month. Otherwise, the two countries could extend the negotiations until the G-20 meeting in Japan in late June, the FT says.

Prime Minister Theresa May said yesterday that she planned to cooperate with the opposition Labour Party to avoid a disorderly Brexit, Stephen Castle and Ellen Barry of the NYT report.

With only 10 days left until Britain is set to leave the E.U., Mrs. May is effectively turning her back on Brexit hard-liners in her own party. She will instead try to develop a plan with cross-party support. She added that she would ask European leaders for an extension.

Canceling Brexit is not an option. “Closer economic ties with the bloc through a customs union or membership in its single market are up for discussion and even a referendum confirming any deal has not been excluded, Mrs. May’s aides said,” Mr. Castle and Ms. Barry write.

But the Labour Party’s cooperation — and E.U. approval for another delay — are not certain.

Brussels is expected to put strict conditions on an extension. They might include “the need to hold European Parliament elections and a possible ‘gentleman’s agreement’ over Britain’s future conduct as a member state,” according to the FT.

The world’s biggest ride-hailing company spent $2 million backing a campaign to impose tolls on vehicles entering Manhattan below 60th Street, the FT reports. New York State adopted the measure this weekend.

• “Uber lobbied lawmakers, ran television ads and contributed $700,000 to the advocacy group Fix Our Transit — more than the Real Estate Board of New York, which put in $500,000,” the FT reported.

• Uber and its main competitor, Lyft, have been criticized for increasing congestion and undermining public transit. “The companies have zeroed in on congestion pricing as their preferred solution rather than efforts to tax car-booking or limit the number of cars on the road,” the FT notes.

• Congestion charges have other benefits for Uber: They will make ride-hailing services more efficient, and may encourage people to use its other transportation services, like bikes and scooters.

Executives at the casino company helped hide sexual misconduct allegations against Steve Wynn, according to Massachusetts’s gambling regulator.

Senior executives knew about the accusations but didn’t follow company policy, the NYT reports. Among the rules they are said to have ignored: a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment imposed in 2004.

Wynn Resorts paid a $7.5 million settlement to a manicurist who said that Mr. Wynn had raped her. The company formed a limited liability company to conceal the arrangement, but didn’t conduct an internal inquiry or notify its board.

The general counsel of Wynn Las Vegas also knew of a 2006 allegation by a former employee of being forced into sex, but didn’t notify the board or Nevada gaming regulators, according to the Massachusetts inquiry.

Mr. Wynn didn’t participate in the inquiry, and one of his lawyers said that the report didn’t make a judgment on the truthfulness of the allegations.

PG&E is reportedly near a deal with hedge fund investors to hire Bill Johnson, the former head of the Tennessee Valley Authority, as its new C.E.O.

Intel poached George Davis from its top rival, Qualcomm, as its new C.F.O.

BlackRock promoted Mark McCombe, the head of its Americas division, to chief client officer. It also named Edwin Conway, the head of its institutional clients group, as head of its alternative investments business.

Blue Apron, the meal-kit company, hired Linda Kozlowski as its new C.E.O., replacing Bradley Dickerson.

Deals

• Andreessen Horowitz will abandon its status as a venture capital firm by registering employees as financial advisers, allowing them to invest more deeply in risky products. (Forbes)

• Two providers of calling services for prison inmates, Securus Technologies and Inmate Calling Solutions, called off a proposed merger after opposition from the F.C.C. (Reuters)

• American activist investors are waging fights across Asia — but not in China. (Nikkei Asian Review)

• United Airlines’s former C.F.O. is raising money for a new low-cost airline. (Bloomberg)

• Jamie Dinan’s York Capital Management has found a new way to make money: cash advances to hip-hop artists. (Bloomberg)

Politics and policy

• President Trump backed off plans to replace the Affordable Care Act after the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, told him it was a political impossibility. (NYT)

• A woman from China carrying a malware-infected thumb drive and four cellphones was arrested after gaining access to Mar-a-Lago, President Trump’s Florida resort. (NYT)

• Stephen Moore, Mr. Trump’s presumptive nominee for a seat on the Federal Reserve board, doesn’t plan to step aside despite controversies over his taxes and divorce. (NYT)

• Mr. Trump said he would close the border with Mexico even if doing so harmed the U.S. economy. (NYT)

• Senator Elizabeth Warren, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, argues in an op-ed that corporate executives should face jail time if their companies cause “severe harm to U.S. families.” (WaPo)

Boeing

• The Senate Commerce Committee is investigating claims by an F.A.A. whistle-blower that inspectors who evaluated the Boeing 737 Max 8 jet weren’t qualified. (NYT)

• The pilots of the Ethiopian Airlines flight that crashed last month reportedly followed Boeing’s emergency procedures for the 737 Max, but failed to retake control of the plane. (WSJ)

• A faulty sensor on the Lion Air plane that crashed last year had been repaired in Florida before the accident. (Bloomberg)

• The aftermath of the Lion Air crash was plagued by a lack of cooperation among Boeing, the airline and government regulators and investigators. (NYT)

Tech

• YouTube is said to have ignored employees’ warnings about the proliferation of conspiracy videos and hateful content on the platform. (Bloomberg)

• A plan to ban Netflix from the Oscars could violate antitrust laws, according to the Justice Department. (FT)

• Netflix is being sued by a former employee who claims she was fired after announcing her pregnancy. (Deadline)

• Facebook says it will stop asking new users for email passwords as an account verification measure. (Axios)

• Cryptocurrencies, led by Bitcoin, are jumping in value for the first time in months. (CNBC)

• Apple’s promises proved too good for major media publishers to pass up. (NYT)

Best of the rest

• Carlos Ghosn announced plans for a news conference next week, presumably to discuss his ouster from the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi auto alliance. (NYT)

• And a Nissan investigation suggests Mr. Ghosn may have used company funds to buy a yacht and invest in his son’s company. (WSJ)

• Walt Disney is facing a lawsuit claiming that it unlawfully pays female workers less than their male counterparts. (NYT)

• The former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak went on trial today over his role in the 1MDB scandal. Also: A super-yacht tied to the scandal is up for sale, with a price tag of $126 million. (NYT, CNBC)

• Deutsche Bank compliance workers in Florida flagged transactions handled on behalf of Danske Bank for potential money-laundering years ago. (Bloomberg)

• Patagonia is producing branded clothing only for environmentally conscious companies now, endangering the finance bro’s uniform: the company fleece vest. (Business Insider)

Thanks for reading! We’ll see you tomorrow.

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