Chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, Europe and Asia James Murdoch gets ready to deliver the MacTaggart lecture later this evening as part of the Edinburgh International Television Festival, McEwan Hall, Edinburgh.
People with knowledge of his plans say James Murdoch wants to distance himself from his father's conservative media outlets

James Murdoch is set to invest about $1bn from the proceeds of the sale of his stake in 21st Century Fox to assemble a new portfolio of media companies that could include a liberal-leaning news outlet, according to people close to the billionaire investor.

A billion-dollar fund would propel Mr Murdoch towards the top tier of venture capital investors.

Following the sale of the Murdoch family’s crown jewel assets to Disney for $71.3bn, James Murdoch has decided to set up his own business, independently from his father and siblings.

People with direct knowledge of his plans said James Murdoch wanted to distance himself from the conservative media outlets controlled for decades by his father but had yet to decide how exactly he would invest in the news media.

His options range from a liberal news website to a digital magazine focused on culture, society and lifestyle, they said, adding that no final decision had been taken as the new venture was at an early stage.

Mr Murdoch is finalising a deal to acquire a stake in Artists, Writers and Artisans, a publisher of comic books headed by Bill Jemas, the former publisher of Marvel. AWA plans to transform its characters into movies and video games.

“The value of storytelling is only going up, and AWA is uniquely positioned to create a tremendous platform for writers and artists,” Mr Murdoch told The Wall Street Journal, which first reported his investment in AWA.

The size of the stake could not be determined, but a person familiar with the deal described the dollar value as fairly small.

Last month, Mr Murdoch launched Lupa Systems, which will act as a holding company for his investments, with offices in New York and Mumbai. The name of the new company means she-wolf in Latin. In Roman mythology, a she-wolf protected and nurtured Romulus and Remus after they were abandoned in the wild. 

Jeff Palker, a former executive vice-president and deputy general counsel at 21st Century Fox, is the managing partner in New York, while Nitin Kukreja, former chief executive of Star India, will run the Mumbai office.

Rupert Murdoch’s six children were each set to receive $2bn from the sale of his entertainment businesses to Walt Disney. After the sale, James Murdoch’s older brother, Lachlan, took the reins as chairman and chief executive of the new Fox, in which Fox News, the conservative media outlet, will play a more central role. 

James Murdoch distanced himself from the family business, stepping down as chief executive of 21st Century Fox and chairman of Sky following its sale to Comcast. 

Last month, he donated $2,800 to Democrat Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign, underscoring his political distance from the Murdoch empire. James Murdoch is also an independent director of Tesla. 

He could not immediately be reached for comment.

Outside of such leading groups as Softbank’s Vision Fund, Sequoia Capital and Andreessen Horowitz, venture capital firms typically raise hundreds of millions of dollars at a time for a new fund, with only a handful breaking into 10 figures in any given year.

For instance, in January, Kleiner Perkins — one of the longest-running companies in Silicon Valley — announced a $600m early-stage fund. Benchmark Capital, an early Uber investor, has raised a total of $1.3bn over the past decade.

The price of entry to the hottest tech companies is rising. Start-ups raising funding rounds of more than $100m have increased from fewer than 20 a month through most of 2016 to several dozen a month in 2018, according to Crunchbase, which tracks VC activity. That, in turn, has pushed up the scale at which investors must operate.

Get alerts on Media when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)

Follow the topics in this article