Sir Richard Branson may have lashed out at Rupert Murdoch this week but the Murdoch most investors are watching like never before is his son, James.
He has been chief executive of British Sky Broadcasting for three years but the purchase of a 17.9 per cent stake in ITV a week ago could be the defining moment of his career at the satellite broadcaster.
The plan was hatched 10 days ago over cheeseburgers at midnight in Barcelona, where he was attending a Morgan Stanley conference.
He was there with Jeremy Darroch, his finance director, and Andrew Griffith, his head of corporate finance.
Together, they plotted their intervention in the battle for control of ITV sparked by a takeover approach from NTL, BSkyB's cable rival in which Sir Richard Branson is the largest investor.
Mr Murdoch's swoop on ITV shares caught analysts, investors and media peers completely off guard, not least because Mr Murdoch had casually told the Barcelona conference on Wednesday morning that he did not see “much of an impact” from NTL's approach to ITV.
It also infuriated Sir Richard, in effect putting paid to NTL's hopes of gaining control of ITV and prompting his attack this week on Mr Murdoch's father, Rupert, as a “threat to democracy”.
“One of the most interesting things about this story is that three or four days before, he'd been very blasé and derisive about NTL's move,” says Peter Bazalgette, chief creative director of Endemol, the Deal Or No Deal producer.
“What does it say about him that within three or four days he did a complete U-turn? Did he change his mind? It means he reacted very, very quickly, which has all the hallmarks of his dad.”
The investment, widely described as a spoiling tactic, almost exactly mirrored his father's own move a few weeks before on the shares of John Fairfax, a rival Australian publisher, which bought News Corp a say in the consolidation of Australia's media industry.
But people close to the company say Rupert Murdoch, BSkyB's chairman, only became involved late in the day. He was briefed on Wednesday evening before Lord Rothschild, the senior independent director, convened a board meeting at 5pm on Thursday to approve the strategy. “The chairman”, as his son calls him, joined in by phone from Australia.
The ITV investment was unexpected in more ways than one, according to one media analyst. “James has a background in new media; he almost prefers it. Given where his interests lie, his ITV [stake] acquisition is pretty uncharacteristic, which points to it being a tactical or slightly defensive move.”
James's new media credentials, earnt while overseeing News Corp's first stab at an internet strategy in the late- 1990s, at first marked him out as a geek among the UK television industry's “creatives”. But as the previously separate media, telecommunications and technology industries have converged, they have positioned him well.
“I think he's excited by technology rather than beleaguered by it,” one headhunter says. “Pretty much all media executives get it now but James has been excited about it for longer.”
The confidence of his analysis of technology shifts and changing consumer behaviour was on show the day before his Barcelona trip, when he warned the Interactive Advertising Bureau that advertisers were not grasping the opportunity of new technology by treating the internet as a separate marketplace.
“This view ignores the real revolution that is approaching, which is about the connectedness of all media,” he says. The intensity with which Mr Murdoch lectures audiences on such matters earnt him a reputation after joining Sky in 2003 of not suffering fools gladly. Industry peers say the angry young man of British media has since mellowed considerably.
His belief in the need to keep ahead of rapid technology change has run through much of his activity this year, however.
In 12 months, BSkyB has signed mobile television deals, paid up for multimedia rights for Premier League football, built out its video download service and, most notably, made a £400m investment in launching a broadband internet access service.
Such investments have come at a cost. Analysts at Goldman Sachs wrote this week: “We are increasingly concerned with Sky's need to invest to cope with a more competitive environment and the payback of its broadband investment.”
Competition from a newly merged cable rival in NTL, the popular Freeview platform, BT's move into online television and a host of broadband providers has given doubters plenty of reasons to worry. While some admire Mr Murdoch's ability to place vast bets on changes in his marketplace faster than many rivals, many analysts say these have also added to the uncertainty.
Talk of “the Murdoch discount” – that other investors come second to the long-term ambitions of News Corp, which owns almost 40 per cent of BSkyB – has revived since the ITV deal.
Although the stock has become popular with value investors, many traditional UK institutions remain underweight and the shares have lagged behind media peers by 17 per cent in two years.
Insiders point to significant, if more subtle, achievements in that time: changing the company's marketing message to broaden its appeal; improving the company's understanding of its customers; reorganising the group to tackle cross- functional projects more coherently; and making BSkyB a leader in its industry in adopting carbon neutrality – an area where Rupert Murdoch is now following his son's lead.
The payback from these, as from splashier moves such as the investments in broadband and ITV, remains uncertain but its chief executive is unshaken on the long-term vision.
“TV networks, publishers, movie studios, music companies and even internet companies are all trying to figure out how they fit into a media marketplace that is a lot more sophisticated than it used to be and a lot more disobedient,” he told the IAB.
虽然李察•布莱信爵士(Sir Richard Branson)上周猛烈抨击了新闻集团(News Corp)董事长鲁珀特•默多克(Rupert Murdoch)，但这回大多数投资者空前关注的那个默多克，却是鲁珀特的儿子——詹姆斯•默多克(James)。
三年来，詹姆斯•默多克一直是英国天空广播公司(British Sky Broadcasting)的首席执行官，但在他卫星广播领域的职业生涯中，一周前收购英国独立电视台(ITV)17.9%股份的行动，将可能是个具有决定意义的时刻。
和他一起在那里的，还有天空广播公司的首席财务官杰里米•达罗克(Jeremy Darroch)、公司并购业务负责人安德鲁•格里菲思(Andrew Griffith)。
Endemol创意总监彼得•巴扎尔杰特(Peter Bazalgette)表示：“这件事中最有趣的一点是，就在三四天前，他还对NTL的举措非常不屑且嘲笑不已。”Endemol是游戏节目《一掷千金》(Deal Or No Deal)的制作商。
外界普遍认为，此次投资是一种破坏战术，与数周前他父亲买入约翰费法斯控股公司(John Fairfax)股份的行动几乎如出一辙。澳大利亚出版商约翰费法斯控股公司是新闻集团(News Corp)的竞争对手，在澳大利亚传媒业整合进程中，老默多克的上述行动为新闻集团夺得了发言权。
自独立电视台交易以来，“默多克折扣”(the Murdoch discount)的说法再次复苏：对于新闻集团长期的雄心壮志而言，其他投资者都处于次要地位。新闻集团大约持有天空广播40%的股份。