News Corporation officially announced Thursday that it will pursue splitting itself into two businesses.
The media empire said the move will "simplify operations and greater align strategic priorities."
One company would house its publishing assets, while the other would boast its more lucrative film and television businesses. Both would be publicly traded.
On a conference call with analysts, Chairman Rupert Murdoch insisted the decision was not motivated by a hacking and bribery scandal that has consumed News Corp.'s U.K. tabloids for much of the past year.
"It is not a reaction to anything in Britain," Murdoch said.
Instead he insisted it was part of the company's natural evolution; one that would unlock more value for both parts of the company.
"We’ve come along way in our journey that began nearly 60 years ago with a single newspaper operating out of Adelaide," Murdoch said.
Under the new structure, Murdoch will be chairman of both companies and CEO of the media and entertainment company. Chase Carey would serve as president and COO of the media and entertainment company.
News Corp. said the split is expected to take place in the next 12 months. It will convene a special shareholder meeting about the transaction in the first half of 2013.
Some investors have long pushed the Murdoch clan to spin off its publishing division from its television and cable business, which have been the sprawling company's largest sources of profits and revenue. Yet, newspapers have long been seen as Murdoch's great passion, causing the octogenarian executive to long resist the move.
On the conference call with analysts, Murdoch said that News Corp. has been examining the possibility of spinning of its publishing assets for three years. He emphasized that the move had involved much deliberation.
“I don’t want to hide the fact that I’ve spent my life doing this. It's a very big move and a very big decision for me," Murdoch said.
Despite Murdoch's insistence to the contrary, the hacking and bribery scandal may have spurred Thursday's announcement, News Corp. watchers told TheWrap this week. Though the company shuttered News of the World, the paper where most of the illegal news-gathering took place, last year, it potentially faces legal costs and settlements of up to $1 billion. Spinning off those assets could inoculate the cable and film divisions from those costly bills.
The new media and entertainment company that would be created through the proposed transaction would consist of News Corp’s cable and television assets, filmed entertainment, and direct satellite broadcasting businesses, including Fox Broadcasting, Twentieth Century Fox Film, Twentieth Century Fox Television, Fox Sports, Fox International Channels, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, FX, Star, the National Geographic Channels, Shine Group, Fox Television Stations, BSkyB, Sky Italia and Sky Deutschland, among others.
The new global publishing company that would be created through the proposed transaction would consist of News Corp.’s current publishing businesses, as well as its book publishing, education and integrated marketing services divisions. Those brands include Dow Jones, The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones Newswires, HarperCollins, The New York Post, and The Daily.
There will also be assets in Australia, including The Australian, The Herald Sun, The Daily Telegraph and The Courier Mail. In addition, the Company would include The Times, The Sun and The Sunday Times.
News Corp. has tapped J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs and Centerview Partners to advise the media empire about splitting itself into two separate companies, an individual with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap.
On the call with analysts, Murdoch stressed that the split was not a "fait accompli."
Asked what hurdles remained to pushing through the historic split, he wryly replied, "lawyers...and governments."