All Media. James Murdoch, who was CEO of 21st Century Fox before his father sold out to Disney for $71.3bn, reportedly plans to invest $1bn (50% of his personal proceeds) in establishing his independent media business, Lupa Systems. It will act as a holding company for his investments, with offices initially in New York and Mumbai. He’s in business on his own again two decades after he owned a hip-hop music label.
His first investment is expected to be a $5m stake in the new comic book publisher Artists, Writers and Artisans (AWA), which plans to migrate its characters to movies and games, under the ex Marvel Comics COO. AWA distinguishes itself from comic-book rivals like DC and Marvel by guaranteeing creators a percentage of the licensing deals it strikes. AWA’s stable of writers already includes Garth Ennis, who created the “Preacher” franchise, and J. Michael Straczynski (“Babylon 5”) who has also written stories for Marvel’s “Amazing Spider Man”. So it’s already a bit more than a startup.
In the week when James Murdoch has publicly donated to the campaign funds of Pete Buttigieg, the youngest Democratic hopeful for the 2020 US Presidential race (emphasising his political distance from his father and from Fox News), he apparently wants to develop a liberal leaning media portfolio, including news and lifestyle digitals, and also short-form content and adtech.
He has long been out of step with his older brother Lachlan and his father, politically, environmentally and technologically. He’s mad about cycling, karate and Bill Clinton. Don’t mention Donald Trump. Even Rupert Murdoch’s initial willingness to contemplate the sale of 21st Century Fox (at least partly because he felt unable to compete in the new era of Netflix, Apple and Amazon) was at odds with James who had, for three years, been trying to persuade his father to let him launch a streaming competitor. In the end, of course, the Disney price swung it.
The European image of the UK-born, US-educated James Murdoch is still clouded by his feeble excuses in News Corp’s phone hacking scandals during 2010-14. His heart wasn’t in either the company’s shaky defence or his father’s cherished newspapers that had caused all the trouble. But James had been a huge success as CEO then Chair of Sky, Europe’s best pay TV network, which has been bought by Comcast for $39bn. He led the transformation of a very good UK business into an unrivalled European leader in subscribers, content and technology. Rupert’s “tech-to-his-fingertips” younger son is now itching to create businesses with the smarts of both Silicon Valley and Hollywood. That’s why investors and inventors are already pitching.