Might Rupert Murdoch be Art Basel's next big investor?
Anna Brady


The media and television mogul Rupert Murdoch is reportedly in
negotiations to become a major investor in MCH Group, the embattled
parent company of Art Basel.

MCH, whose recent financial woes have been well documented, has been
trying to raise capital by attracting another investor. On Friday,
the Swiss business newspaper Finanz Und Wirtschaft reported that the
events company is in advanced negotiations with Murdoch via his son
James Rupert Murdoch, according to two un-named sources. Murdoch is
reportedly discussing taking a share of up to 30%, at a cost of around
CHF100m ($105m)—Finanz Und Wirtschaft says estimates are circulating
that the Art Basel fairs alone are worth CHF 500m, while the MCH’s
market value is just CHF 100m.

On 26 June, the newspaper also reported that the Swiss investor
Annette Schömmel was putting together a consortium to buy a 70% stake
in MCH Group for CHF 350m (around £300m), apparently with plans to
expand Art Basel though no exact details were given.

But an MCH spokesman declines to comment on the reports about Murdoch
and Schömmel, saying: “MCH Group will provide further information
on this at the appropriate time. We do not comment on speculations.”
Murdoch’s company News Corp did not immediately respond to a request
for comment.

On 24 June, MCH announced on its own website that the canton of
Basel-Stadt (MCH’s majority shareholder with 33.3% of the business)
has approved the plans for a capital increase, waived its share
subscription rights and approved a conversion of a loan of CHF
30m into share capital to strengthen MCH’s balance sheet. The
announcement says the canton’s waiver of its subscription right
and the conversion of its loan “constitute key cornerstones of MCH
Group’s intended transaction.” It adds: “If the negotiations
with potential investors can be brought to a successful conclusion,
the capital increase and the associated structural changes will
be submitted to the shareholders of MCH Group at an Extraordinary
General Meeting. The outcome of the negotiations still remains open at

MCH has been hit hard by the restrictions on large events in the wake
of the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak. Its keystone event, the watch
fair Baselworld, has been cancelled for 2020 and 2021, and this year
has already seen the cancellation of Art Basel in Hong Kong in March
and Art Basel, which has been delayed from June to September, but is
now cancelled altogether.

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