Rupert Murdoch's counterintuitive quest to invest in print media helped drive away longtime lieutenant Peter Chernin. News Corp. insiders say Murdoch's love of print media is so fervent that
he's privately been talking about a play for The New York Times, and possibly the Los Angeles Times, which could make easier prey.
As Wall Streeters digested the news of Chernin's exit, they identified two things that make a deal for The New York Times a remote but intriguing possibility: The dire state of the newspaper and the swashbuckling style of Murdoch, who has defied doubters since his empire-building days.
"It'd be awfully tempting if he puts 60 bucks a share on the table like he did the last time" with Dow Jones, says Benchmark Capital analyst Edward Atorino. But the Times Co. thinks it can tough it out because it doesn't have the bank pressure that has hit other media companies. "That won't kick in for another year or two and they hope, by then, that the economy will have recovered," says Atorino.
Technically, a News Corp. transaction for another paper is possible, given that the company has more than $2 billion in free cash flow in the current fiscal year, even amid continuing erosion of the newspaper biz.