Nonprofit to For-profit: Murdoch Strikes Deal With Nat Geo Society

The deal gives Fox a majority stake in the Nat Geo magazine, expanding an existing TV partnership.

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Rupert Murdoch, Executive Chairman News Corp and Chairman and CEO 21st Century Fox. (Photo: Reuters)

The 127-year-old nonprofit National Geographic Society has struck a $725 million deal with 21st Century Fox. This gives Fox a majority stake in National Geographic magazine and other media properties, expanding an existing TV partnership.

The agreement announced on Wednesday will give the company controlled by Rupert Murdoch’s family a 73 per cent stake in the new National Geographic Partners venture. The society retains 27 per cent ownership. The move shifts the longtime nonprofit flagship magazine into a for-profit venture.

The arrangement brings together National Geographic’s magazine with its cable channels and other media businesses. Officials said aligning the various media brands will help fuel future growth.

This expanded partnership, bringing together all of the media and consumer activities under the National Geographic umbrella ... creates vast opportunities and enables this business to be even more successful in a digital environment.
– James Murdoch, Chief Executive of 21st Century Fox

Former US President Bill Clinton  during a speech at the National Geographic Society. (Photo: Reuters)
Former US President Bill Clinton during a speech at the National Geographic Society. (Photo: Reuters)

Declan Moore, a 20-year veteran of the society, will be CEO of National Geographic Partners.

Spokeswoman MJ Jacobsen said National Geographic essentially retains editorial control with the same leadership team and editors.

Gary Knell, the president and chief executive of the National Geographic Society, said the new venture would deliver an ongoing revenue stream to help fund grants and programs to support science and research. Knell will be the first board chairman of the new venture.

“The editor of the magazine is very happy because it’s going to be more money for storytelling. It’s really not a secret that media is stretched and pulled and disrupted today,” MJ Jacobsen said.

Future plans call for a new education center devoted to improving geographic skills of high school students and the creation of centers of excellence in cartography, journalism and photography.

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