Business, Economics and Jobs

Australia: Gina Rinehart increases stake in Fairfax as company cuts 1,900 jobs


Gina Rinehart, Australian billionaire.


Paul Kane

Australian mining magnate Gina Rinehart has increased her stake in the influential Fairfax media group to 18.7 percent from 12.5 percent.

The world’s richest woman and Fairfax's largest shareholder confirmed the acquisition today after the newspaper, radio and digital media group announced it would cut 1,900 jobs over the next three years.

According to the Australian Associated Press, the share raid puts the boss of Western Australia-based Hancock Prospecting one step closer to snaring two seats of the Fairfax board.

The Sydney Morning Herald, which is published by Fairfax, said Rinehart was believed to be seeking as many as three board seats and a say in editorial decisions.

More from GlobalPost: Gina Rinehart, Australian billionaire, seeks bigger stake in Fairfax media

The Corporations Act prevents Rinehart from holding more than 20 percent of Fairfax’s shares without first making a takeover bid, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation said.

In addition to the savage job cuts, Fairfax said it would close two major printing plants in Sydney and Melbourne, shrink its flagship broadsheet newspapers The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age to tabloid size and introduce subscription paywalls for its online content, the Courier Mail said.

Senior Fairfax journalist Stuart Washington told a news conference that it was an “emotional time” for the company’s employees and “there have been tears on the newsroom floor.”

In a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange, Fairfax chief executive Greg Hywood said the company had considered “the merits of a full range of structural alternatives, including a demerger.”

"The package of strategic initiatives is bold, and several are difficult, particularly as they will impact on some of our people," he said.

"However, we believe that they are in the best interests of Fairfax, our shareholders, and ultimately the majority of our people.

"They are necessary to ensure Fairfax retains its position as a leading independent media company and a key voice in our markets."