Peter Kafka

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Two Questions for Rupert Murdoch

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The first two big questions to resolve about the News Corp. split:

Is this for real? I’ve talked to people in and out of the company (which also owns this Web site) who believe this is a News Corp. trial balloon, and that Rupert Murdoch hasn’t settled on a plan to split his low-margin publishing business from his high-margin video business.*

But I’ve also talked to a lot of people inside News Corp. who believe Murdoch is charging full steam ahead here. “He’s excited about this,” one of them told me today. So are investors, who have pushed Murdoch’s stock up eight percent today. (Worth noting: News Corp. stock is now above where it was a year ago, when the Millie Dowler/voicemail story kicked off the hacking scandal that continues to dog the company).

Also excited: Goldman Sachs and Centerview Partners, the two banks News Corp. has put on the job.

Next question: Who runs the publishing business? A split would leave News Corp. COO Chase Carey running the unit that houses the film and TV business, just as he’s doing today (though it’s possible Murdoch would retain his CEO title at one or both companies). The intrigue is about the other half. The logical choice would be Robert Thomson, a longtime Murdoch lieutenant who runs The Wall Street Journal and is editor-in-chief at Dow Jones. Today’s persistent chatter, though, is that Murdoch’s son Lachlan, who left the family business back in 2005, wants back in.

The buzz from News Corp. is that at least one of these queries should be answered soon, perhaps this week. Grab your popcorn.

*For a smart quick take on what this means — and how it’s not at all like Sumner Redstone’s Viacom/CBS split from the last decade — see PaidContent’s Staci Kramer.

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