News Register for our weekly news digest here.

James Murdoch.
James Murdoch.

James Murdoch to Buy Major Stake in Art Basel’s Struggling Parent Company

MCH Group, the Swiss owner of Art Basel, plans to sell up to 44 percent of its shares to James Murdoch, son of billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch. The news comes on the heels of a grim 2019 report that predicts losses as high as $190 million following the pandemic-related cancellation of the 2020 and 2021 iterations of its highest-grossing event, the Baselword Watch and Jewelry Fair. In March and June, the company’s major art fairs in Hong Kong and Switzerland, respectively, were forced to move online after tentative postponements, and in April, the company laid off 150 employees.

Its new corporate strategy, announced last Friday, will prioritize a debt restructuring based on an injection of around $111 million from Murdoch’s private investment firm Lupa Systems. The investment also aims to shift the focus of the business away from traditional events and toward “future-oriented platforms and communities,” the New York Times reports.

If the decision is finalized on August 3, the canton of Basel-Stadt and other public-sector investors in Switzerland, which together own about one-third of MCH Group, will step back to allow Lupa Systems to become the company’s largest owner with the proviso that Murdoch enter into a fifteen-year relationship with the trade fair company. The organization will be required to continue hosting events in Basel and Zurich, and its headquarters must remain in Switzerland.

Lupa Systems was founded in 2019, following James Murdoch’s departure from a chief executive position at 21st Century Fox, the multinational media company founded by his father and acquired by Disney last March. The younger Murdoch was appointed to the board of New York’s Dia Art Foundation in 2016, and he was previously on the board of Sotheby’s.