The News Corp CEO warned analysts this morning that the plan to divide into two companies “is not a fait accompli. There are a lot of steps to take.” But he says that he’s pursuing it because he believes it’s a smart business move. “This is not a reaction to anything in Britain” where his company faces multiple investigations into his newspapers’ phone hacking and bribery, says Murdoch. He would continue to be CEO of the media and entertainment operation after a split, and chairman of both companies. COO Chase Carey also says that News Corp has “no changes” in its plans regarding BSkyB; it had to abandon an effort to buy the UK broadcast power after the scandals became front page news a year ago. Murdoch talked up his belief that the publishing unit wouldn’t be a weak orphan adding that the transaction doesn’t reflect a lack of faith in the future of the business. “That could not be further from the truth.” Although “people are buying fewer papers on crushed wood,” Murdoch says that “people will pay for news” — and he plans to push digital distribution “a lot harder.” The company doesn’t have any details about how much cash and debt will go with each entity. Still. Murdoch took pains to emphasize that publishing will be cash positive and a “well capitalized, well run, scale player.” Will the company lose synergies? “Just because they’re separate doesn’t mean the companies can’t work together on an arms length basis,” Carey says. “There will be opportunities for the companies to do things together.” This was a rare opportunity for analysts to quiz Murdoch, who has been absent from most conference calls over the last year. But questioners were told that he would only address questions about the new corporate plans.
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