Media Scion James Murdoch’s 49 Percent Investment in MCH Group, the Parent Company of Art Basel, Has Been Officially Approved

Murdoch will invest up to $80 million and his company will gain three seats on the board.

James Murdoch. Photo: Clint Spaulding/Patrick McMullan.

After months of negotiation, media scion James Murdoch and his investment company Lupa Systems have been officially approved as the new anchor shareholder of MCH Group, owner of the Art Basel fairs. 

The deal was ratified at MCH’s Extraordinary General Meeting last Friday, November 27, as 96 percent of MCH’s shareholders voted in approval. Lupa Systems now hold a stake of 49 percent in the event production company. 

Murdoch has promised an investment of up to $80 million ($CHF 75 million) and will become a member of the company’s board of directors along with two Lupa colleagues, Jeffrey Palker and Eleni Lionaki, following the completion of a capital increase this month.  

“We are looking forward to working together,” Murdoch, the former CEO of 21st Century Fox and son of media magnate Rupert Murdoch, said in a statement. “We will do our utmost to justify the confidence placed in us as a new anchor investor and as members of the board of directors and to contribute to the company’s successful turnaround and strategic progress.”

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A billboard for Art Basel in Hong Kong on March 29, 2018. (PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images)

The deal, first announced in August, was held up after several shareholders objected to the terms, specifically the clause that would allow Lupa to take over nearly half of the shares without making a public offer. 

One member of the opposition, shareholder Erhard Lee, sued MCH through his company LLB Swiss Investment AG “because the proposed deal was very unfair and would have diluted the minority shareholders strongly,” he told Artnet News in September. “This was unacceptable to us.” 

Lee withdrew the suit in October after the terms of the deal were restructured to allow existing shareholders the opportunity to increase their investment and new investors the chance to buy in. Lupa Systems was allowed to proceed without making a public offer.

MCH will now issue up to $114 million (CHF 104.5 million) worth of additional shares in two tranches. Both capital increases are expected to be completed by the end of this year, the company announced.  

For MCH, the infusion of cash couldn’t come soon enough. For the first half of 2020, the company reported a loss of $26.5 million (CHF 24.4 million)—a 55 percent drop from the same period last year. 

Murdoch, for his part, has preached optimism. “We’re committed to accelerating the pace of innovation at MCH, to redoubling the company’s commitment to its community in Basel and Zurich, and to ensuring that the company is on firm financial footing, as it re-emerges in a new landscape,” he said in a statement last month. 


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