Australia’s richest person makes move on media – Lang Hancock chairwoman Gina Reinhart is said to have increased her stake in Fairfax by five per cent overnight.
Mining magnate Gina Rinehart is proving that she is not only the nation's richest person, but potentially one of its most influential media personalities.
Ms Rinehart has yet to make an official statement confirming the business transaction, however, reports indicating that she has increased her stake in Fairfax by five per cent overnight are widely circulating.
The iron ore billionaire, who already has a ten per cent state in the Ten network, is reported to have spent $192 million on shares to secure a 9.9 per cent slice of the newspaper, digital and radio group.
A stockbroker acting on behalf of Ms Rinehart is thought to have overseen the transaction and may have been seeking a further five per cent on the agreed amount.
Shares in the company, which publishes The Age and Sydney Morning Herald among other titles, rose by as much as 15 per cent in the early hours of trade this morning (February 1).
But it is yet to be seen whether Ms Rinehart's decision to add to her media shares will have a long term impact on the company.
Instead most commentators have been quick to speculate about the personal motivation behind the decision, as well as whether it will delay changes to the nation's cross-media ownership laws that are currently under review by the federal government.
In an interview with Business Day, Tim Dwyer, a senior lecturer at the University of Sydney said that Ms Rinehart's share buy-up could have an impact on future policy decisions.
"Australian governments have been notoriously short-sighted when it comes to media policy," he said.
"Unfortunately, (media coverage during) the next election is the priority when they look at the recommendations arising out of the independent media inquiry and the convergence review."
In recent years, the legal framework surrounding cross-media ownership has softened leading to an influx of high-profile individuals buying shares across multiple platforms – James Packer, Bruce Gordon and Lachlan Murdoch also have shares in Ten.
Yet experts seem to be far more concerned about the potential political influence Ms Rinehart may be able to exert if the new contract is approved.
"There's no way you'd be buying into either Ten or Fairfax as a financial investment for the future in the media," industry analyst Peter Cox told the ABC.
"So, this has to be driven by her view on politics in Australia … What's the point of spending that money on it if you're not going to have influence?"
Photo credit: Herald Sun