First published in The Sydney Morning Herald on January 12, 1987
THE DAY MURDOCH REALISED HIS RIVALS HAD TAKEN THE LEAD
THE BATTLE FOR THE HERALD AND WEEKLY TIMES
Yesterday, Mr Murdoch was believed to be out sailing on Sydney Harbour. He says he made only one tactical error: giving the directors three hours to consider his latest offer instead of one.
The chairman of Queensland Press, Mr Keith McDonald, received a surprise telephone call at 2.40 pm (EST) on Friday from Mr Murdoch. He had not even realised that the chairman of News Corporation was in Australia, let alone Brisbane.
Mr Murdoch asked if he could see him as soon as possible.
Within half an hour, a white Ford carrying Mr Murdoch drove up the front ramp of the two-storey Queensland Press building in Campbell Street, Bowen Hills. The driver drove to the back of the building after sighting a few journalists from The Australian and the Queensland Daily Sun waiting in the foyer for the outcome of an informal meeting of the board.
Mr Murdoch, accompanied by his Australian managing director, Mr Ken Cowley, entered through a shabby back door. As there is no lift, he had to walk the two flights of stairs to the board room.
He walked straight into the Queensland Press boardroom with its thick green carpets and green-painted walls on which Australian landscapes hang and, in true Murdoch style, offered them so much money he obviously felt they could not refuse.
Mr Murdoch told the directors he would offer $1.05 billion for Queensland Press if it accepted a new offer of $15 a share – up $3 from his earlier offer- for its holding of 24 per cent in the Herald and Weekly Times.
He gave them three hours to make up their minds, otherwise the deal was off.
Outside the boardroom, activity had become frantic. A company security guard prevented about 100 journalists, photographers and television crews from leaving the foyer – they wanted to wait outside the boardroom. And at one stage, Mr McDonald’s secretary unsuccessfully ordered four Queensland Press journalists away from the boardroom door.
After 20 minutes, the News Corporation chairman left the boardroom and entered the reception room which has a cocktail bar.
The directors then sat until 9.20pm considering their verdict.
It is believed one member of the board held out against all of the others who wanted to accept the Murdoch offer. Mr Murdoch has refused to identify this director.
Apparently taking advantage of the three-hour deadline, Mr Holmes a Court’s J.N. Taylor Holdings Ltd won a temporary injunction preventing Mr Murdoch increasing his ownership of the Herald and Weekly Times to more than 15 per cent.
At 9.20pm, Mr McDonald announced that the board had decided it was inappropriate to accept the Murdoch offer by the deadline.
He said the board knew about the injunction and also had received representations from Fairfax and Mr Holmes a Court indicating they would increase their bids substantially.
In a day when Mr Murdoch planned a coup to win the $2.3 billion takeover battle, he retreated to Sydney to find his rivals had taken the lead.
Source: Thanks smh.com