The Curse of the Mogul: What's Wrong with the World's Leading Media Companies

Overview

If Rupert Murdoch and Sumner Redstone are so smart, why are their stocks long-term losers?

We live in the age of big Media, with the celebrity moguls telling us that "content is king." But for all the excitement, glamour, drama, and publicity they produce, why can't these moguls and their companies manage to deliver better returns than you'd get from closing your eyes and throwing a dart? The Curse of the Mogul lays bare the inexcusable ...

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The Curse of the Mogul: What's Wrong with the World's Leading Media Companies

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Overview

If Rupert Murdoch and Sumner Redstone are so smart, why are their stocks long-term losers?

We live in the age of big Media, with the celebrity moguls telling us that "content is king." But for all the excitement, glamour, drama, and publicity they produce, why can't these moguls and their companies manage to deliver better returns than you'd get from closing your eyes and throwing a dart? The Curse of the Mogul lays bare the inexcusable financial performance beneath big Media's false veneer of power.

By rigorously examining individual media businesses, the authors reveal the difference between judging a company by how many times its CEO is seen in SunValley and by whether it generates consistently superior profits. The book is packed with enough sharp-edged data to bring the most high-flying, hot-air filled mogul balloon crashing down to earth.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The media industry is facing multiple financial and operational crises on an unprecedented scale. Rampant overpaying for acquisitions and “strategic” investments make incompetent corporate leaders as complicit in media's decline as the difficult economy. The authors, professors at the Columbia Business School, focus their sights broadly but home in on the usual suspects—Ted Turner, Rupert Murdoch, Disney and an alphabet of flailing companies (e.g., TBS, CNN, TNT). They discuss the dilemma of new media vs. old, the difficulty of establishing efficient operations, mergers that worked and mergers that didn't, and attempt to debunk any number of media myths, most assiduously the “content is king” platitude—considering especially that the movie, music and book industries are all floundering. An interesting subject in theory, but this treatment has the feeling of a homework assignment rather than an exposé and plods along to its meandering conclusion at a snail's pace. Dull writing and a complete lack of human interest detail make this a tough read and a tougher sell. (Oct.)
Booklist
The authors, academics and consultants, analyze the destruction of value in media conglomerates caused in part by overpaying for acquisitions. In terms of revenue in 2005, we learn that only 4 of the 15 largest U.S. media companies were broadly held public companies that were not under the absolute control or influence of a mogul. Media mogul is "a metaphor for how the industry has been consistently operated and the results it has produced," and the mogul curse is that "with disturbing consistency over time bad (mogul behavior) begins to overwhelm the good." The authors set out to evaluate the media industry, explain why these companies are self-destructive, and offer new strategies. Losers in media companies outnumber winners, and the losers are the "talent"-performers, writers, producers, and the creative executives. The authors conclude with six principles for the good mogul, including focusing on efficiency and concentrating on business challenges rather than seeking diversification in the global arena. This thoughtful analysis of the media business appears to be also a textbook for consulting seminars and required reading for business students.
—Mary Whaley
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591842644
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/15/2009
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.34 (w) x 9.28 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Bruce Greenwald is the Robert Heilbrun Professor of Economics at Columbia University Business School, where his class on strategy draws standing-room-only crowds.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Introduction: The Curse of the Mogul 1

Part I The Framework

1 The Media Landscape 13

2 The Landscape of Competitive Advantage 33

3 The Structure of Media Industries 57

4 Debunking Media Myths 67

5 The Internet Is Not Your Friend 81

Part II The Segments and the Strategies

6 Content Is Not King: Movies, Music, and Books 105

7 Efficient Operations in Media: Do You Think I'm Sexy? 123

8 Putting It All Together: Networks and Databases 141

9 Managing Competition in Media: Can't We All Just Get Along? 159

10 All (Profitable) Media Is Local: Newspapers, Theaters, and Communications 173

11 Reinforcing Competitive Advantage in Media 189

Part III Good Mogul/Bad Mogul: The Sources of Success and Failure

12 Bad Mogul: Media Mergers and Acquisitions 205

13 Media M&A That Works: One That Happened and One That Didn't 233

14 Good Mogul: The Outperformers 241

Epilogue: The Future of Media: The End of the Curse? 257

Postscript 269

Notes 277

Index 301

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 4 of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 19, 2009

    Investors beware - the media-mogul has your money!

    And Rupert Murdoch is not the worst - indeed, has some "good mogul" potential (but watch out for his successor moguls!). We are beguiled by the iconic names of media mega-companies and the moguls who run them. The moguls' initial inspiration and drive founded and built iconic businesses - names we are all familiar with. But like conquerors of yore, who built empires initially for economic reasons, megalomania takes over from business sense and empire-building becomes the end in itself. Personal aggrandisement and conviction in the infallibility of his business acumen leads the mogul to make irrational business mergers and other deals on a monumental scale, with economically disastrous results. How does he do this, and how are the disasters disguised from Joe Public? He uses your (investors') money as though it were his own, and publicity waffle about "synergy" etc as though the words themselves had value. The eventual fall of a mogul may produce a frisson of pleasure, but meanwhile the returns on investment are appalling. You have been warned! This lively and entertaining book is an eye-opener for all. The specialist can study the tables and figures - the rest of us can skim over those and enjoy the shock-horror of it all.

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  • Posted November 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great book on the media industry and how it needs to change

    For those interested or involved in the media industry this book makes for a compelling read.

    It aims to provide some "guidelines" for the media industry, by surveying the industry over the last few decades. From interesting anecdotes to detailed analysis, it makes for easy, light reading and builds a strong case for their key points. What's most interesting is that their analysis indicates that conventional wisdom in the media industry is all wrong.

    Whether you agree with their views or not, this book will definitely ask you to think some more about the media industry and the moguls that run it.

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    Posted October 5, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 – 4 of 3 Customer Reviews

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