• You know how the stories in The Wall Street Journal have gotten punchier and shorter? Yeah, well, apparently it is not the great soft hand of Rupert Murdoch making these changes. The journalists are cleaving to him of their own free will. "Our people are doing this in advance, I think, to make him happy," a reporter told the Washington Post. [WP]
• "Is the Hillary Clinton campaign staffed with morons or do they just not care anymore? It is unbelievable that on the night before the Texas and Ohio (and Vermont and Rhode Island) primaries they would set up an impromptu press room in a freaking men's bathroom, complete with urinals." [HuffPo]
• Fox and CNN to go head-to-head. [Mixed Media/Portfolio]
• The Wall Street Journal wants a cut in its reporters' book deals. Also, they fired their longtime First Amendment lawyer Stuart Karle. "We're pissed," one reporter says. [NYO, Ad Age]
• Former Condé Nast execs James Truman and Mitch Fox are collaborating on a project that will combine "a green market and eco-technology with a Cirque du Soleil-like performance series." [WWD]
• Lawyers everywhere are crossing their fingers for a Michael Clayton Oscar win. "In 80 years, only 10 legal movies or actors playing members of the legal community have taken home gold," a columnist sighs. Awwwwww. Wait a second. We didn't do the math, but isn't that more than like, every other profession? How many people playing bloggers have won Oscars, for instance? Slickster lawyers. Always trying to trick us with their fancy talk. [Law.com]
• Could John Edwards be our next attorney general? [The American]
• The Sean Bell "50-shot" case is set to go to trial on Monday. [NYT]
With pieces donated by Banksy, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Richard Prince, and many more art heavyweights, the Sotheby's (AUCTION)Red at the auction house tonight is gearing up to be a collector's scrum. Christy Turlington, Dennis Hopper, and Mario Batali are all slated to attend, as is Michael Stipe, who already knows what he wants to buy. "I'll tell you, the Ed Ruscha is so beautiful" he gushed to New York's Fiona Byrne at Tuesday's Edun party at the Desmond Tutu Center in Chelsea "I think it's a 2007, but it's brought what he does full circle, which is part of the reason I am drawn to it. I am tempted to bid; I may well." Elsewhere at the party, Josh Hartnett told us he's watching the pennies after a recent large purchase. "I have to find out if I have any money left," he said, not ruling out the prospect of picking something up from the auction, which will go to help fight HIV/AIDS in Africa. "I just bought a new place and totally redid it and put in new furniture, but I have to get something for the walls!" Last night at a Gagosian Gallery preview, celebrities like Jon Bon Jovi, Anna Wintour, Donna Karan, Tory Burch, Russell Simmons, and Ivanka Trump were more hushed about what they wanted. But we think we can guess which painting caught Rupert Murdoch's fancy. He spent the entire night standing in front of Damien Hirst's Where There's a Will, There's a Way. It's expected to fetch between $5 and $7 million tonight. Which, for Rupert, is probably a small price to pay for a piece of contemporary art that embodies your life philosophy.
• NBC golden boy Ben Silverman sells his production company, Reveille, to
Rupert Murdoch's daughter, Elizabeth. [LAT]
• CNN producer Chez Pazienza is forced to pack his bags after blogging for the Huffington Post. [TVNewser/Mediabistro]
• Us Weekly reports that OK! magazine "sensationalized" Grey's Anatomy star Eric Dane's battle with cancer in a cover story. (Actually, he only had some malignant cells on his lip frozen off in a doctor's office.) "This isn't the first time OK! has been wrong," they note. But is Us really crusading against yellow journalism? Or are they just annoyed they didn't get the scoop? [Us Weekly]
In last week's earnings call, Rupert Murdoch was asked about the talks he'd had with Yahoo about combining it with MySpace, a News Corp. property. "I think that day has passed," he said, "but you never know." Indeed! Today, Murdoch's Wall Street Journal is reporting that its parent company, along with a private-equity group, is in talks to combine MySpace and other News Corp. properties with Yahoo. This new round of discussions, the Journal tells us, are aimed at "helping Yahoo fend off Microsoft Corp's unsolicited" $44.6 billion offer to buy the company. Under the deal being discussed, News Corp. would get a 20 percent stake in Yahoo, but, more importantly, "they’d be the largest single stockholder and effectively in control of the combined Yahoo/FIM entity and their nearly 150 billion monthly page views (which would be second only to Google)," according to TechCrunch. Which basically means, we think, that Murdoch would own at least a 65 percent stake in, like, our brains.
News Corp. Enters Yahoo Fray [WSJ]
• Now that Yahoo rejected Microsoft's $44.6 billion bid, it's up to Microsoft's self-described "gatekeeper of funding" Christopher P. Liddell to plot the company's next chess move. [DealBook/NYT]
• Fearful that 90 percent of TheStreet.com's franchise revolves around Jim Cramer, today the finance-driven Website launched Mainstreet.com, which will revolve around celebrities and personal finance. You think Britney's psychological drama is intense? Wait until you hear about her bond portfolio. [NYP]
• France's rogue trader Jérôme Kerviel might have had an accomplice. How did police find out? By sifting through 2,000 pages of instant-message traffic. Bet that was a gr8 time. [NYT]
Amy Fisher is unbothered that the bullet she fired into the head of Mary Joe Buttafuoco is still lodged in her brain. "I feel no sympathy for Mary Jo," she said. "I still have silicone in my boobs, and you don't hear me complaining. She can't feel her bullet, and I can't feel my silicone." Gwyneth Paltrow said that she and hubby Chris Martin are open to adopting a baby but that they'd likely get it from Brooklyn instead of Africa. Don't you know? It's CNN that is biased! They're the ones who have a problem with letting Fox News anchors appear on their shows, despite the fact that Fox News lets CNN anchors appear on its programs, the Rupert Murdoch–owned Post tells us. They're probably just scared. Pussies.
• Wall Street hopes Hillary has a super Super Tuesday, but private equity is standing by one of its own. Fourth-quarter campaign-financing reports show Senator Clinton taking in the lion’s share of donations from the Street’s top ten financial firms. Meanwhile, Bain Capital co-founder Mitt Romney is still tops among the PE crowd. [NYT/Dealbook]
• So, what’s it gonna be, boy? Stuck between Microsoft’s rock and Google’s hard place, Yahoo! CEO Jerry Yang has limited options for saving his company at his disposal. [NYP]
• If you believe the latest hype, Citadel is paving the way for an IPO after all. Ken Griffin’s asset-management firm has split its proprietary hedge-fund business from its client-based options-making business. “Legally, it makes it cleaner,” said Josh Galper in an interview. [Bloomberg]
Today in the Daily News, Rush & Molloy attempt to make the case that News Corp. overlord Rupert Murdoch is still on Team Hillary, despite the fact that his New York Postendorsed Barack Obama last week and trashed her in the process. "When it comes to putting money down, Murdoch poured $2,300 – the maximum allowed for a primary race – into her campaign six months ago," the husband-and-wife duo point out. "He gave Obama nothing." But the key phrase in that sentence seems to be "six months ago." Public statements of editorial independence aside, the Post simply doesn't do anything that Rupert Murdoch doesn't want it to do. The official policy of loathing Senator Clinton was reiterated even today, with a masthead editorial attacking both her and her husband. David Carr, in today's Times, seems to see the issue more clearly:
[Clinton] never once appeared before [the Post's editorial board — a customary act of tribute by local politicians — and her lack of deference was duly noted by the paper’s leadership
• Courtenay Semel's dad, Terry, is out at Yahoo. And Microsoft's $44.6 billion bid for the company might just be déjà vu. [NYT, Deal Journal/WSJ]
• Recession-has-already-started watch: The economy lost 17,000 jobs in January, the first time since the lovely tech-crash days of 2003 that total payrolls have shrunk. [Reuters via NYT]
• One of the few lucky bankers with a bonus burning a hole in your pocket? Try London restaurant Vivat Bacchus' new "Bonus Tasting Menu" for a mere £1,000. [DealBook/NYT]
• Britney Spears looks great on the new cover of Blender — too bad it's not her body. [Radar]
• Stephen Chao, the former News Corp. exec who lost his job after hiring a male stripper for a company party and almost drowning Rupert Murdoch's dog, announced a new Website for how-to videos. First video: how to get fired in two easy steps. [NYT]
• Now that Judith Regan's settled her suit with Murdoch, will she give her winnings — likely north of $6.5 million — to charity like she once promised? [Mixed Media/Portfolio]
• Like a bird of prey with a juicy morsel in its claws, Rupert Murdoch is moving the Journal back to his midtown News Corp. nest to feast on its carcass. New plans include more entertainment coverage and a sports page! [NYT]
• A mouse was spotted at the Times building! And as all apartment dwellers know, for every mouse you see, there are seven you don't see. [Gawker]
• The Writers Guild has struck a deal that allows them to write for the Grammys. Good thing, because improvised speaking never really sounds as good as improvised music. [USAT, Vulture]
Since his acquisition of The Wall Street Journal, Rupert Murdoch has been flirting with the idea of freeing the paper's subscription-only content from behind its, er, wall. "That looks like the way we're going," he told Reuters back in September. But today in Davos, he announced that he'd changed his mind. While the Journal plans to expand their free online content, he said, "the really special things will still be a subscription service and, sorry to tell you, probably more expensive." And, just like that, he totally kicked off what will surely become a massive internal competition over whose story is "special" enough to be paid for. He's so smart and evil we can hardly stand it.
Wall Street Journal Web Site To Remain Subscription-Based [WSJ]
• Chase CEO Jamie Dimon has some big plans at Davos this year: "Number one on my list is world peace." [MarketBeat/WSJ, DealBook/NYT]
• Looks like Steve Schwarzman is green only with greed — his newest moneymaking scheme hinges on building huge coal plants in pristine locales in the American West. [Fortune]
• Société Générale, the second biggest bank in France, found that one of its "plain vanilla" traders had taken "massive fraudulent directional positions…far beyond his limited authority" that would ultimately end up costing the bank $7 billion. It is, according to the Times, "an exceptional fraud." Seriously! Quelle balls! [NYT]
Did anybody else notice the funny timing of the New York Times' attack coverage of Fox Business Network? On January 4, Jacques Steinberg and Brian Stelter wrote a story called "Few Viewers for Infancy of Fox Business," in which the two television writers tore down the new channel for getting only about 6,000 viewers during the day. "By contrast, Fox Business’s chief competitor, CNBC, attracted about 283,000 viewers each weekday," the story explained, going on to accuse FBN of having "bravado" during their launch. "Thus far, at least, CNBC would seem to have easily eluded Fox’s crosshairs," the writers cackle. The numbers were based on secret Nielsen ratings for the new channel that only CNBC and FBN had paid to receive. On the same day, there were severalotherstories on the topic, with less gleeful Schadenfreude. And since, in those stories, a Fox rep spoke with reporters, it's probably a safe bet that they didn't cooperate on the Times story. In other words, they probably didn't leak the unpublished Nielsen ratings: CNBC most likely did. Now, it's pretty easy to understand wanting Rupert Murdoch and Fox to fail. But the aggression in this story was put into a surprising new context yesterday when it was announced that CNBC and the New York Times are starting a content-sharing partnership that has been in the works for a while. From the Reuters story reporting the collaboration:
The deal also gives the Times and CNBC access to each other's breaking business news as Rupert Murdoch's News Corp prepares to fight them both with the nascent Fox Business Network cable channel and the recently acquired Wall Street Journal.
• Bear Stearns followed up yesterday's Morgan Stanley announcement with its own $850 million loss, again the first quarterly deficit in the bank's history. [DealBook/NYT]
• Is former Bear Stearns exec Ralph Cioffi, the guy behind the two Bear funds that imploded this summer, the main culprit in the subprime crisis? New reporting suggests his team set off the plague of dirty debt that cost Citi and other top banks billions. Oh, and Cioffi's under investigation for pulling out a couple mil before anyone else got the chance. [Business Week]
• What a mensch: David Rubenstein, the former lawyer turned Citadel private-equity master, decided to keep his new copy of the Magna Carta on display at the National Archives. Rubenstein paid $21.3 million — chump change for a guy worth around $2.5 billion. [Law Blog/WSJ]
• Hedi Slimane is back in talks with LVMH to launch his own fashion house. Everyone, commence jumping up and down. [WWD]
• IMG is behind Bravo’s new model show but won’t be giving the winner a contract. [Fashionista]
• Not even Cavalli can rev up H&M’s sales. [NYP]
There's something fishy about the role of incoming Wall Street Journal publisher Robert Thompson. It's not just that he's the former editor of Rupert Murdoch's Times of London (and therefore not someone with experience from the business side of a paper). It's that he gives Murdoch an interesting loophole to get around the editorial-independence clauses that were set up at the request of the Bancroft family when he took over the Journal. Portfolio's Jeff Bercovici reports:
Tom Bray, chairman of the five-person committee charged with overseeing compliance of the agreement, notes that it explicitly delineates the authority of the managing editor and editorial page editor but does not do so for the publisher. A change in the publisher's duties, therefore, lies outside the agreement's purview.
Today People brings us all the details of the glamorous nuptials of Marchesa designer Georgina Chapman and producer Harvey Weinstein. They do a pretty decent job, as wedding announcements go. Guests at Harvey's Westport estate included Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Cameron Diaz, Renée Zellweger, Naomi Watts, Anna Wintour, Rupert Murdoch, Ron Perelman, Quentin Tarantino, Graydon Carter, Karolina Kurkova, and Helena Christensen. Yeah, it was one of those. "The wedding was the most elegant, loving affair I've ever seen," one guest (no doubt a socialite friend of contributing reporter Jeff Slonim) told People. "The room was full of incredible people who were there to toast the couple, who looked totally in love." The party tents were decorated with fir trees, crystal chandeliers, mirrors, and pink flowers. A ten-minute fireworks show erupted after the couple exchanged their vows, lighting up Long Island Sound.