Murdoch’s Bad Bet: How News Corp. Lost Over $6 Billion On Gemstar

Regardless of what happens with Macrovision’s (NSDQ: MVSN) proposed offer, Gemstar-TV Guide has proven to be a significant disappointment for Rupert Murdoch. News Corp., (NYSE: NWS) of course, owns a 41 percent stake in the company, whose fortunes have fallen dramatically since it was formed in a 1999 merger. News Corp.’s history with the company is a bit convoluted, but WSJ walks through the steps, and concludes that it has lost over $6 billion all told on the investment.

It goes like this: News Corp. spent $3 billion in 1988 on Triangle Publications, the parent of TV Guide and other magazines, which were subsequently sold off for $650 million. In 1999 News Corp. merged the magazine with assets owned by John Malone’s Liberty Media, (NSDQ: LINTA) in exchange for $800 million and an equity stake. So by this point, it’s total cash outlay was around $1.6 billion. Next, TV Guide was merged with Gemstar, with News Corp. and Liberty each holding 20 percent stake in the combined company. Here’s where Murdoch made his real mistake: in 2000, with Gemstar-TV Guide soaring, News Corp. took Liberty’s stake in exchange for $6 billion in News Corp. stock. These shares would form the core of Liberty’s holdings in News Corp., which Murdoch has since been looking to purge. With this swap, News Corp. investment in the company now totaled $7.6 billion. Following that swap, Gemstar-TV Guide began its long, steady decline, possibly culminating in a sale to Macrovision.

Since the deal was announced, shares in Gemstar have plunged further, with News Corp.’s stake now worth somewhere around $1 billion. The exact amount of the loss is a little hard to measure, because there may have been dividends and other small transactions over the period, but basically it’s somewhere around $6.6 billion

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