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James Murdoch to invest in struggling Art Basel parent company

Murdoch’s media fund Lupa Systems will become the anchor shareholder in MCH Group, holding at least a third of shares

James Murdoch in 2008. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

James Murdoch is set to acquire a large stake in Art Basel organisers MCH Group, whose fortunes have taken a beating in recent months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The media tycoon and son of News Corp and Fox Media chief Rupert Murdoch has a history of engagement in the artworld – sitting on the board of the Dia Art Foundation and formerly on the board at Sotheby’s. 

The technology and media investment company Lupa Systems – founded by James Murdoch last year – will take a stake of 30 to 44 percent, MCH Group said in a statement, becoming the new anchor shareholder. They also plan to add Murdoch to the board of directors. The deal is to be finalised at a general meeting on 3 August.

Lupa has signed a 15-year agreement with a five-year lock-in, committing to MCH Group’s headquarters staying in Basel, and the continuation of Art Basel in Basel. Lupa already has several high-profile investments including a majority stake in Vice Media. ‘MCH Group’s long history of innovation for customers, civic commitment to economic and cultural life, and deep investment in its platforms and communities make for a long-term business that can grow, invest, and flourish,’ Murdoch said in a statement.

MCH Group was already navigating difficult times even prior to COVID-19 – the company underwent a restructuring last September, saying that it would scale back on its live event production service. The pandemic has forced the Swiss company to pull several of its flagship events. COVID-19 has already led to the cancellation of Art Basel’s editions in Hong Kong and Basel this year – Art Basel Miami Beach is still scheduled to open on 3 December, ‘as long as the circumstances allow’, fair director Noah Horowitz has said in recent comments.

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