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.
• Know a troubled lawyer? If you work in the law, you probably do — some estimates put the ratio of depressed attorneys at 20 percent — and a few new Websites are trying help them out. [Law Blog/WSJ, WSJ]
• How not to get out of your marijuana arrest: When the judge lets you off easy, pull out a driver's license covered in pot. [New York Law Journal]
• So just how lame was Cadwalader's Wild Wild West holiday party last night? Wildly. [Above the Law]
• Howard Stern, good for the gays? A longtime lesbian listener calls Stern "one of the most pro-gay media personalities in the country." [Gay.com]
• Murdoch finally gets his giant puffy hands on the Journal today at 10 a.m. The only question is just how much of the Bancroft family will try to show their noble intentions, however laughably inept, by registering a protest vote against the deal. [WSJ]
• A great new/old debate: Should Democrats go on Fox News? [Mixed Media/Portfolio, NYO]
So, last week, Wall Street Journal media reporter Sarah Ellison scored a deal to write a book for Houghton Mifflin about the News Corp. acquisition of The Wall Street Journal. Michael Wolff, who has been working on such a book, scheduled to come out next fall, is not amused. "The problem with someone from The Wall Street Journal writing a book is that they are inevitably conflicted," he told the Post today. When we e-mailed him this morning, he was a little more snarly. "Doesn't Sara Ellison work for the guy and for the company she's proposing to write a book about?" said Wolff, whose own book, a big-picture title about Rupert Murdoch and his career, is based on extensive interviews with Murdoch. Unlike Ellison, he said, who is taking a year off to write the book, but not actually leaving the Journal, his reporting won't be compromised by worrying about his next paycheck. "How exactly [will she] do that?" he said. Ellison did not respond to requests for comment, though presumably she'd say something like, "The same way I've been covering the Dow Jones takeover for the Journal since July." There is one other thing that is potentially awkward: Ellison's editor at Houghton Mifflin told the Observer some months ago that the book would have "new reporting," which seems odd, in the same way that it was kind of odd when Washington Post editor Bob Woodward kept the fact that he had known all about Valerie Plame quiet until State of Denial came out. Anyway, let's face it: These are not the most important questions. The most important question is this: Which one of these books is going to give us a reconstructed Rupert–Wendi sex scene? Yeah. Fight over that one.
Dueling Journal-ists [NYP]
• Rupert Murdoch won't officially take over the Journal until tomorrow, but he's already dipped his tentacles deep into the paper. Rumor has it the Journal will dismiss two or three dozen people, to be replaced with Rupe's cronies, and then go on a hiring spree. Oh, and apparently Murdoch briefly considered dropping "Wall Street" from the title. Tells you something about where the paper's headed. [NYT]
• Sadly, Jane Pratt won't actually be starring in a reality-TV show titled American Ugly, as we reported yesterday. C'mon Jane, don't you love us? [Mixed Media/Portfolio]
• New York Post "Metro" editor Dan Colarusso, whom Col Allan praised as "a quintessential New Yorker," walked out of the newsroom and quit yesterday. No word on why, but seems pretty quintessential to us. [Runnin' Scared/VV]
• The newest Citigroup rumors suggest a "tag team at the top": Financial whiz Vikram Pandit will take over as CEO, while the more socially astute Robert Willumstad handles chairman duties. We're just not sure "tag team" means the same thing for us as it does the Times? [DealBook/NYT]
• Morgan Stanley issued a full recession alert for the U.S. economy today in the oh-so-subtly titled "Recession Coming." Meanwhile, a recent Journal poll of top economists puts the risk of recession at 38 percent. [Telegraph, WSJ]
• Thirtysomething Blackstone real-estate guru Jonathan Gray is getting rather comfortable in the top tier of the young establishment. [DealBook/NYT]