Facing investigations and possible lawsuits on the both sides of the Atlantic, Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and CEO of News Corporation, announced Wednesday he will turn his entire media empire into a bank.
“Instead of people calling me a media mogul, they can now call me a banking mogul,” Murdoch said in an appearance on Fox News, which he also owns. “News Corp will become one of the biggest bank holding companies in the world, a bank that just so happens to do a bit of publishing, makes movies and other things.”
It’s Murdoch’s latest attempt to quiet the uproar over allegations that News Corp employees at the British tabloid News of the World bribed British police and hacked into the voicemails of celebrities, politicians, murder victims and those killed in terrorist attacks. He has already closed News of the World and backed off an attempt to buy British satellite TV provider BskyB.
Murdoch told British members of Parliament on Tuesday that he was an inattentive CEO who had no idea what was going on at his company, so he shouldn’t be held accountable for the actions of his employees.
This new move is an attempt by Murdoch to insulate himself and his underlings from all possible legal problems and to open the door to financial support from the U.S. and British governments.
“Tuesday night it occurred to to me that despite wrecking the global economy, selling investments that were destined to fail and betting against them, not one Wall Street banker has gone to jail,” Murdoch said. “They got billions in taxpayer funds, the clients got ripped off and the CEOs made out like bandits. That’s my kind of a business.”
Murdoch also noted that financial firms such as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and American Express all turned themselves into bank holding companies in 2008, in order to make use of discount funds from the Federal Reserve.
He said questions of conflict of interest, such as whether a bank should own a publication like The Wall Street Journal or Fox News were immaterial given that the Journal has already treated him with kids’ gloves, while Fox is the voice of the Republican Party. The Journal immediately published an online editorial on Wednesday that praised Murdoch’s decision.
During Murdoch’s appearance Wednesday on Fox’s morning show Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy praised his boss for apologizing for the scandal without accepting any responsibility. Doocy said it was time for the media to focus on more important issues, such Justin Bieber and the brilliance of Sarah Palin.
“There are a lot of companies that have been hacked into, such as Citigroup and American Express, and News Corp is just like them, except for the fact that our company was the perpetrator,” Doocy said. “If you alter the facts and ignore reality, then News Corp is really the victim here.”
Murdoch said his bank, which is yet un-named, will offer free checking with automatic deductions being donated to the Republican Governor’s Association, other campaign funds and whichever Republican presidential candidate that Murdoch decides to support and promote on his network.
Attorney General Eric Holder was informed of this turn of events by reporters on Wednesday as he called for an investigation into News Corp’s alleged bribery of foreign officials and hacking into the voicemails of terror victims.
“This is a heinous crime beyond any scope of decency. Even if bribes took place in the U.K. it’s possible that U.S. laws were violated and….. what? Murdoch is turning himself into a bank? Well if that’s the case, never mind then,” Holder said. “If he really does turn News Corp into a bank, we’ll just give him a get out of jail free card like Goldman Sachs and everyone else.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron told the BBC that he would end his call for an investigation in Parliament and instead ask for Murdoch’s permission to give News Corp billions in government-backed loans to ease its transition into the financial sector.
The Associated Press reported that Murdoch would be meeting with Congressional leaders of both parties on Friday to discuss special tax subsidies for the company and a potential bailout of News Corp once its banking application is approved by the Federal Reserve and the Securities and Exchange Commission.