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The Swiss trade fair sector, which has already been in crisis for some time, was further hit by the pandemic and have now found it necessary to attract new investors. It's for this reason that James Murdoch - son of tycoon Rupert - confirmed his intention to invest in the exhibition sector in Switzerland, including Art Basel, of which he could become a majority shareholder.

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Murdoch family's interest in the Swiss trade fair sector has been the subject of media speculation for several days, and this move confirms what the international press had assumed. James Murdoch, through the company Lupa Systems, confirmed the intent to invest 100 million Swiss francs as anchor shareholders to take over between 30% and 44% of the shares of the MCH Group, a company that owns various Swiss fairs, including Art Basel.

If Lupa Systems managed to acquire more than 33.5% of the shares, it would become the majority shareholder of the company. Currently, that position is held by the Canton of Basel which holds 33.5% of the shares. The decision to accept the Murdoch family's offer will have to be ratified by the general assembly of shareholders of the MCH Group by August 3rd, but barring any major upsets, it appears to be a done deal. 


James Murdoch in 2008. 


Murdoch said in a statement in The Art News Paper: "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.” 

The implications of the new investor for Art Basel are as yet unclear but Murdoch does have art interests—he is a director of the Dia Art Foundation and was formerly a director of Sotheby’s. If this will be the fair's future, MCH Group plans to reduce its board of directors to nine members, three of whom would come from Lupa System. On August 3, in fact, Murdoch and Jeff Palker, managing director and general director of Lupa Systems, and Eleni Lionaki, partner of Lupa Systems, will be proposed to the board as new members.

Murdoch was also apparently tempted to invest due to the current economic climate, where the fall in the price of MCH Group shares is reportedly around 25%.

Cover image: Art Basel Fair in Basel.  
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