Fairfax Limited, one of Australia’s largest media conglomerates, is at war with its largest individual shareholder, the world’s richest woman.
The soap-worthy drama began on June 18, when Fairfax—which publishes The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, and other leading newspapers—announced that it would cut 1,900 jobs (about 20 percent of its work force) over three years, shut down two printing plants, and reduce all of its broadsheet newspapers to tabloid formats.
On the same day, mining magnate Gina Rinehart, already Fairfax’s largest shareholder, increased her stake in the company from 12.6 to 18.7 percent, prompting some to suggest that the $87 million share purchase had “expedited” the restructuring.
Her involvement soon began to look more like a hostile takeover than a well-intentioned effort to stabilize the financially troubled company. Many feared she was making a grab for editorial control that would allow her to push a free-market, anti-regulatory agenda on a large slice of the Australia’s media market.
Indeed, a day after the restructuring announcement, The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Rinehart was also seeking three seats on Fairfax’s board of directors. According to its article: