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Singo buys into Fairfax, sides with Gina

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SYDNEY, Dec 29 AAP

December 29 2012, 11:37AM

John Singleton has taken a stake in Fairfax Media and is joining forces with his long-time friend Gina Rinehart to push for a "significant" say in the company.

The media and advertising mogul says his entry into Fairfax follows the board's decision "definitively closing the door" on a sale or joint venture of their radio assets to his Macquarie Radio Network.

Mr Singleton and his partner, the venture capitalist Mark Carnegie, announced late on Friday that their Gutenberg Investments had purchased shares in Fairfax Media and would team up with Ms Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting.

"For the amount of money I was prepared to pay for the radio assets of Fairfax I could buy a significant amount of all the assets of Fairfax at a far lower price to earnings multiple," he said in a statement.

"Hence, with my preferred direct route closed, I have decided to pursue another path."

Mr Singleton said he and Mr Carnegie had met with Ms Rinehart, but their association was in the early stages. They would file a substantial shareholder notice to the market on Monday.

"It was clear to me from the start that there was a mutual interest in working together," he said.

"However it is important to state that both Gina and I believe that the lifeblood of Fairfax is the integrity and accuracy of its journalism.

"This in no way would be compromised if Hancock Prospecting and Gutenberg Investments had a significant say in the future of Fairfax."

But Mr Singleton took a swipe at the board, and said the Fairfax Charter of Independence should be reviewed.

"I think the current board has struggled to come to terms with the new environment, which is there for all to see in the share price and the lack of direction at the company," he said.

"I was on the board of Fairfax when Sir Zelman Cowen was chairman of the board some 20 years ago, when the existing Fairfax Charter of Independence was drawn.

"There is no reason why a group of eminent and experienced Australians should not review the charter to ensure and enable its relevance for today, and the current very challenging times for the media."