Mixed messages from Church Commissioners on Murdoch stake

By staff writers
13 Jul 2011

Hours after the Church of England's Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) warned that it could pull £3.8 million in shares out of News Corp if it fails to hold senior executives to account over the phone hacking scandal, Andreas Whittam Smith, First Church Estates Commissioner, has warned against a "premature" pull-out from the media Murdoch empire.

The chief custodian of the established Church's £5 billion plus investment fund said that it was possible that Mr Murdoch could sell his British newspapers in the future, and that therefore "a premature sale of News Corp and BSkyB might just be simply very bad timing."

Whittam Smith, a former editor of The Independent newspaper, told members of the Church of England's general synod meeting in York: "I don't argue with anything that anybody is saying about them, but I think it must be possible that News Corp will get rid of its entire British holdings, of newspapers that is, and that if it is to do so, first of all the problem would have vanished if you look from the point of view of the parent company and for us as investors, and the shares will certainly bounce up again, and so it is a ticklish area."

In addition to its News Corp holdings, the Church of England has a further £5.3 million-worth of shares in BSkyB, which was until recently the subject of a take-over bid by News Corp. Mr Murdoch announced his withdrawal from the bid today.

[Ekk/3]

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