If Rupert Murdoch and Sumner Redstone are so smart, why are their stocks long-term losers?
We live in the age of big Media, with the celebrity moguls telling us that "content is king." But for all the excitement, glamour, drama, and publicity they produce, why can't these moguls and their companies manage to deliver better returns than you'd get from closing your eyes and throwing a dart? The Curse of the Mogul lays bare the inexcusable financial performance beneath big Media's false veneer of power.
By rigorously examining individual media businesses, the authors reveal the difference between judging a company by how many times its CEO is seen in SunValley and by whether it generates consistently superior profits. The book is packed with enough sharp-edged data to bring the most high-flying, hot-air filled mogul balloon crashing down to earth.
The media industry is facing multiple financial and operational crises on an unprecedented scale. Rampant overpaying for acquisitions and "strategic" investments make incompetent corporate leaders as complicit in media's decline as the difficult economy. The authors, professors at the Columbia Business School, focus their sights broadly but home in on the usual suspects Ted Turner, Rupert Murdoch, Disney and an alphabet of flailing companies (e.g., TBS, CNN, TNT). They discuss the dilemma of new media vs. old, the difficulty of establishing efficient operations, mergers that worked and mergers that didn't, and attempt to debunk any number of media myths, most assiduously the "content is king" platitude considering especially that the movie, music and book industries are all floundering. An interesting subject in theory, but this treatment has the feeling of a homework assignment rather than an expos and plods along to its meandering conclusion at a snail's pace. Dull writing and a complete lack of human interest detail make this a tough read and a tougher sell.