Rupert Murdoch
Will Rupert Murdoch finally separate News Corp.'s lucrative movie and television ventures from its much smaller, less profitable newspaper and book publishing business?The speculation caused the company's share price to rally in pre-market trading on Tuesday after closing down the day before. REUTERS

Will media giant News Corporation (Nasdaq: NWSA) finally split up, as many shareholders have wished for years?

Officially, the company is mum on a report from one of its newspapers Tuesday saying CEO Rupert Murdoch is considering an idea he has long opposed: bifurcating the company's highly lucrative and larger entertainment and television-news business from its not-as-lucrative newspaper, book and educational publishing ventures.

Chairman Rupert Murdoch has previously opposed such a move, which has been discussed internally for several years, say people familiar with the situation, said a report in News Corp.'s Wall Street Journal. Mr. Murdoch has recently warmed to the idea, said one person familiar with the situation.

Any decision could come out as early as this week. The company's share price closed Tuesday up $1.68, or 8.34 percent, to $21.76 after falling 1.35 percent to $20.08 on Monday; the price gained another 16 cents in after-hours trading.

The spin-off would create a separate corporation that would include many newspapers worldwide, including the Journal, the Times of London and Barron's, as well as book publisher HarperCollins. News Corp.'s Enterprise Media Group also includes Dow Jones Newswires and Factiva.

News Corp.'s entertainment and television business accounts for three-fourths of the company's current $23.5 billion in revenue for nine months of the current fiscal year and most of its operating profit, primarily from the company's Fox television businesses and 20th Century Fox film ventures. The publishing side of News Corp. has generated $8.8 billion in revenue in the same period.

Restive shareholders have often said they would prefer that the company focus on its more lucrative entertainment assets, said DealBook.

Whatever the outcome, it's unlikely that Murdoch would give up his family's controlling stake in either venture. They currently control about 40 percent of News Corp.'s voting rights.

News Corp. is still grappling with the phone-hacking scandal in the UK that has stymied attempts to take control of British Sky Broadcasting in a $12 billion offer for the 60.9 percent of the satellite company that News Corp. doesn't already own. British regulators are mulling whether the company is fit to expand its television presence in the UK as a result of the scandal. The company has been aggressively expanding into satellite television worldwide. It owns Sky Italia and New Zealand's Sky Network Television Ltd.

The company's share price has gained a fifth in value over the past 12 months, mainly due to a share buyback program.