Murdoch US empire to expand yet further with purchase of Newsday

Rupert Murdoch is on the eve of expanding his American news empire. A deal is about to be done for him to purchase the New York suburban daily Newsday.

The price: around $580 million – or just under £300 million. Newsday is the 12th biggest circulation in the US with a daily circulation of just under 400,000 and a Sunday edition selling over 450,000.

The sale has been under negotiation for several weeks, ever since Samuel Zell, head of the Tribune Company of Chicago, announced he was considering selling some of its properties. The Tribune company will retain a slightly under five percent interest in Newsday.

Newsday already distributes Murdoch’s New York Post on Long Island, the NY suburb where the paper is headquartered. Murdoch has said that acquiring Newsday – and merging some of its departments – can help put the money-losing Post on firmer financial ground. The Post, reputedly, loses about a million dollars a week.

There was a worry at one time that US Government laws would prevent Murdoch expanding his New York holdings – which in addition to The Post include two TV stations and the recently-acquired Wall Street Journal – but the financial plight of newspapers in the US could make such anti-trust issues somewhat moot.

Meanwhile at the Wall Street Journal, while news of the Newsday purchase was breaking, there was a surprise and dramatic change in top management.

The paper’s managing editor, Marcus Brauchli, submitted his resignation. It is almost exactly a year since he was appointed to the job. That was some months before News Corp acquired Dow Jones, the company that owns the WSJ, for just over $5,000 million.

Spokesmen at the WSJ insisted the resignation was amicable – and in fact Brauchli, who is 46, will probably it’s said stay with the company in another capacity.

There have been reports however that he was unhappy with the direction in which Murdoch is taking the WSJ. That includes making it more competitive with the New York Times, introducing sports coverage, more general news and later this year launching a glossy magazine.

Murdoch, in fact, has been reported to be spending more than half his time these days at the paper, supervising the changes.

Brauchli (pronounced Brock-lee) started at Dow Jones as a copy-editor in l984 and rose through the ranks – from foreign correspondent to international news editor, overseeing the paper’s Asian and European redesign in 2005. He was given a standing ovation when his appointment to managing editor was announced. At the paper many say he tried to steer a middle path between the traditionalists and Murdoch’s new vision for the paper.

Former London Times editor Robert Thomson, who was named publisher of The Journal in December, is expected to take over the position, perhaps just temporarily. Before his six years at The Times Thomson was editor of the US edition of the Financial Times for four years.

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