FOLIO: To Murdoch - 'What's Next?' (Rupert Murdoch Acquires Ziff-Davis' Business Magazines)

Article excerpt

FOLIO: Let's begin simply enough. Why the departure into trade books, something you had stayed away from for a long time, if not forever?

RM: I've never stayed away from them deliberately. We'd always seen it as a great business, we simply had no way to get into it. This was an opportunity.

FOLIO: You had opportunities before. Was this a special opportunity? And what made it so?

RM: It's a very special group, it's a group that really dominates in the travel industry. We'd been offered smaller groups before that had bits and pieces all over the shop, which were good, but this seemed to be a very good one. We think it's got a great future.

FOLIO: Were you most attracted to the Ziff buy because of the industries it was in, or because of the timing in general?

RM: A lot of people claim they have 10-year plans or five-year plans or something. But basically, the most successful businesses are opportunistic, and you take your opportunities when they come. We went into it because it was there. We paid as much as we did because we thought the publications were outstandingly good and capable of further development--outside of telecommunications and computers, travel is the fastest growing industry in the world. So we saw it had a lot of things going for it.

FOLIO: Do you see the Ziff-Davis acquisition as just a $350 million foray--if there is such a thing--into trade magazine journalism? Or do you see it as a springboard for other acquisitions?

RM: OH, the latter. Absolutely! We're not looking right now for any more $350 million acquisitions--we first have to consolidate this and develop it. But we are already looking for extensions of it. Later, as we gain confidence in our ability to operate in this sort of business-to-business publishing, we will probably, to use your language, make "forays" into other industries, other categories of business-to-business publishing.

FOLIO: What would be logical, vertical industries for you to go into, now that you've got a stranglehold, if you will, on travel and aviation?

RM: I don't know the answer to that. I don't think there is any logical next industry. I mean, travel and aviation already includes hotels and lodging. One can extend further out in those areas. But is there another industry waiting that's close to or analogous to it? I don't know.

FOLIO: You've made your reputation primarily in the newspaper world and you told me before that newspapers are very, very special to you. How involved at all will Rupert Murdoch himself be in this new operation?

RM: I'm very involved at the moment, but that's so that I can learn about the operation and talk to the people who will be running it. We have very good management that came with these publications, I'm happy to say, and they will become part of our general magazine division. The Ziff magazines will form a group within it. They'll be reporting to Martin Singerman and John Evans, who head our magazines. After I get to know more about it I will withdraw from it.

FOLIO: Then you don't see yourself being involved on a day-to-day basis after a short period of time?

RM: That's correct.

FOLIO: You are definitely hands-on with respect to your newspapers. You're suggesting that after a while you'll be hands-off with respect to this business-to-business publishing area. Correct?

RM: Well, I don't know. With the number of things that I'm responsible for now, it'd be very difficult to be hands-on with anything for very long. And I tend to range over the whole of the company's activities. I try to be capable of being hands-on with any of them, but, of course, I cannot be hands-on all the time with anything. Where there are problems, where I think things need development or I want to get into something, see what people are like or that we have the right creative people coming through, then I'm hands-on to that extent. …