James Murdoch, son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, and Uday Shankar, the former chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of Star India and president of Walt Disney Asia Pacific, on Thursday announced a new venture.
The venture, they said, would focus on technology and media opportunities in emerging markets. Industry sources said the focus would be on digital media, with India being the big driver.
Murdoch is the CEO of Lupa Systems, a private holding company, launched after the acquisition of 21st Century Fox by Walt Disney, in 2019. The venture between Shankar and Murdoch will be part of Lupa Systems.
The partnership, however, will bring Murdoch and Shankar, both former colleagues at Star, together. Shankar had taken over as CEO of Star India in 2007 after the exit of Peter Mukherjea and Sameer Nair, both high-profile Star India executives back then. This phase was a tough one for Star and Shankar, since the broadcaster was facing tough competition from Zee and Sony and had to contend with new entrant Colors from Viacom18 in 2008.
A former journalist, Shankar slowly built Star’s reputation back and was also close to Murdoch, who was overseeing Star’s overall operations, first as chairman of News Corporation and then as CEO of 21st Century Fox.
After executing the merger of Star and Disney in India, Shankar had announced in October that he was stepping down from Walt Disney to pursue his own interests. He had indicated at that time that he would look at digital media closely, given his involvement in growing Hotstar, the over-the-top platform of Star.
Shankar is also credited for investing in sporting properties while at Star, picking up the television and digital rights of the Indian Premier League for over Rs 16,000 crore in 2017, besides betting on football and kabaddi. He was appointed president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry last month, marking a first for a media executive.
Murdoch, on the other hand, has been investing in firms in India for the past two years through Lupa Systems, betting on start-ups such as Dailyhunt and Harappa Education.
“After two decades of working in India, it is great to be entering into a renewed partnership with Uday. Our collaboration over the years had been immensely rewarding. As connectivity continues to accelerate and expand across South Asia and the whole region, new opportunities for innovation, across consumer sectors, will multiply,” said Murdoch.