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  • Jun 29, 2020

Rupert Murdoch Vying for Art Basel Investment

RUPERT MURDOCH may become a major stakeholder of Art Basel’s parent company MCH Group.

Conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch is reportedly in the process of becoming a significant investor of MCH Group, which organizes the three annual editions of the international art fair Art Basel.

Earlier this month, MCH Group announced that it is trying to raise capital to implement a revamped corporate strategy through new investors as well as existing shareholders. According to Bloomberg, the council of the canton of Basel-Stadt currently has majority control with a 33.5 percent stake. However, it has waived its subscription rights thus permitting a new investor to become a majority shareholder. Murdoch’s son, James Rupert Murdoch, is said to be negotiating on behalf of his father to gain a share of up to 30 percent, with a capital investment of approximately CHF 100 million (USD 105 million). Additionally, the subscription price for these new shares are exceptionally low at CHF 10 (USD 10.56), as reported by The Market.

Hong Kong businessman and art collector Adrian Cheng, who currently holds more than three percent of MCH Group’s shares through investment vehicle Joint Proficient Project Company Ltd., contacted the company at least twice to increase his existing shares, according to The Market. Cheng was reportedly willing to invest in the group on much better terms than those presented to Murdoch.

Worldwide Covid-19 induced restrictions on travelling and public gathering have deeply affected Art Basel’s parent company. In February, the event organizer was forced to cancel its biggest convention of the year, the Baselworld Watch and Jewelry Show, previously scheduled for April. That same month, the company announced that the 2020 edition of Art Basel Hong Kong, Asia’s largest contemporary art fair and originally slated for March, was canceled. The fair was later moved online. Earlier in June, Art Basel in Basel, slated for September, was also canceled and subsequently turned digital. Final decisions regarding the fair’s Miami Beach edition for December is yet to be confirmed.

Melbourne-born billionaire Murdoch, whose News Corporation at one point owned over 800 companies in the early 2000s, is known for his extensive art collection. His ex-wife Wendi Deng Murdoch is a major investor in the art platform Artsy, which she co-founded. His daughter Elizabeth Murdoch founded Freelands Foundation, a London-based art organization focused on making art education accessible.

Murdoch's potential rival investor, Adrian Cheng is the billionaire CEO of New World Development and is also heavily involved with the art scene, from his bases in Hong Kong and across China. He founded the luxury shopping mall and art platform K11, comprised of an art foundation active in Hong Kong, art villages in Wuhan, in addition to retail centers in Hong Kong and various cities in mainland China.

Eman Naseer is an editorial intern of ArtAsiaPacific.

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