Why Murdoch Really Invested in Channel 10

He likes Arnon Milchan

DAVOS, Switzerland - "My investment in Channel 10 is marginal. It is for friendship, not business," media tycoon Rupert Murdoch told TheMarker at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Murdoch, the controlling shareholder in media giant News Corp, is a junior partner in Channel 10 through Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan's firm New Regency.

With Australian billionaire James Packer, Murdoch owns 40% of New Regency.

Six months ago, Channel 10 announced that News Corp was buying a 9% stake in it. The press release accompanying the deal quoted Murdoch as saying the Israeli acquisition served News Corp.'s aim of expanding its business throughout Europe and the entire region.

However, in Davos on Friday, Murdoch said frankly that the investment stemmed mostly from social motives.

Asked by TheMarker if he meant his friendship with former Israeli billionaire Arnon Milchan, Mudoch answered in the affirmative.

Murdoch participated Friday morning in a session titled "Who is shaping the agenda" about the impact of Internet and new technology on media, democracy and the business world. Murdoch said that media conglomerates are losing influence amid the continued explosion of news Web sites, blogs and podcasts.

News Corp owns some of the world's largest television and news businesses. In the past year, the conglomerate has made major investments in Internet, after buying the online social network MySpace for $530 million.

The impressively timed deal hit the headlines just before social networking itself became the talk of the town. Analysts now value My Space at anywhere between $5 billion and $10 billion.

Murdoch was restrained in talking about MySpace and its possible impact on youth. "People like the site, they find friends and common interests there," he said. "That seems to be why two million new users join exch week."