Murdoch in December 2012
Keith Rupert Murdoch|
11 March 1931
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
American (naturalized 1985)
|Alma mater||Worcester College, Oxford (BA)|
Chairman and CEO of News Corporation (1979–2013)|
Executive Chairman of News Corp (2013–present)
Chairman and CEO of 21st Century Fox (2013–2015)
Executive Co-Chairman of 21st Century Fox (2015–present)
|Net worth||US$15.9 billion (June 2018)|
|Board member of||
21st Century Fox
(m. 1956; div. 1967)
Anna Murdoch Mann
(m. 1967; div. 1999)
(m. 1999; div. 2013)
|Children||6, including Prudence, Elisabeth, Lachlan, and James|
Ivon Murdoch (uncle)|
Patrick Murdoch (grandfather)
Walter Murdoch (great-uncle)
|Awards||Companion of the Order of Australia (1984)|
Murdoch's father, Sir Keith Murdoch, was a reporter and editor who became a senior executive of The Herald and Weekly Times publishing company, covering all Australian states except New South Wales. After his father's death in 1952, Murdoch declined to join his late father's registered public company and created his own private company, News Limited.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Murdoch acquired a number of newspapers in Australia and New Zealand before expanding into the United Kingdom in 1969, taking over the News of the World, followed closely by The Sun. In 1974, Murdoch moved to New York City, to expand into the U.S. market; however, he retained interests in Australia and Britain. In 1981, Murdoch bought The Times, his first British broadsheet and, in 1985, became a naturalized U.S. citizen, giving up his Australian citizenship, to satisfy the legal requirement for U.S. television ownership.
In 1986, keen to adopt newer electronic publishing technologies, Murdoch consolidated his UK printing operations in Wapping, causing bitter industrial disputes. His holding company News Corporation acquired Twentieth Century Fox (1985), HarperCollins (1989), and The Wall Street Journal (2007). Murdoch formed the British broadcaster BSkyB in 1990 and, during the 1990s, expanded into Asian networks and South American television. By 2000, Murdoch's News Corporation owned over 800 companies in more than 50 countries, with a net worth of over $5 billion.
In July 2011, Murdoch faced allegations that his companies, including the News of the World, owned by News Corporation, had been regularly hacking the phones of celebrities, royalty, and public citizens. Murdoch faced police and government investigations into bribery and corruption by the British government and FBI investigations in the U.S. On 21 July 2012, Murdoch resigned as a director of News International. On 1 July 2015, Murdoch left his post as CEO of 21st Century Fox. However, Murdoch and his family continue to own both 21st Century Fox and News Corp through the Murdoch Family Trust.
Keith Rupert Murdoch was born on 11 March 1931 in Melbourne, Australia, the son of Sir Keith Murdoch (1885–1952) and Dame Elisabeth Murdoch (née Greene; 1909–2012). He is of English, Irish, and Scottish ancestry. Murdoch's parents were also born in Melbourne. Keith Murdoch was a war correspondent and later a regional newspaper magnate owning two newspapers in Adelaide, South Australia, and a radio station in a faraway mining town. Later in life, Keith Rupert chose to use Rupert, the first name of his maternal grandfather.
Keith Murdoch the elder asked to meet with his future wife after seeing her debutante photograph in one of his own newspapers and they married in 1928, when she was aged 19 and he was 23 years older. In addition to Rupert, the couple had three daughters: Janet Calvert-Jones, Anne Kantor and Helen Handbury (1929–2004). Murdoch attended Geelong Grammar School, where he was co-editor of the school's official journal The Corian and editor of the student journal If Revived. He took his school's cricket team to the National Junior Finals. He worked part-time at the Melbourne Herald and was groomed by his father to take over the family business. Murdoch studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Worcester College, Oxford in England, where he supported the Labour Party, stood for Secretary of the Labour Club and managed Oxford Student Publications Limited, the publishing house of Cherwell. After her husband's death from cancer in 1952, Elisabeth Murdoch (mother) did charity work, as life governor of the Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne and established the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute. At the age of 102 (in 2011), she had 74 descendants. Murdoch completed an MA before working as a sub-editor with the Daily Express for two years.
Activities in Australia and New Zealand
Following his father's death, when he was 21, Murdoch returned from Oxford to take charge of the family business News Limited, which had been established in 1923. Rupert Murdoch turned its Adelaide newspaper, The News, its main asset, into a major success. He began to direct his attention to acquisition and expansion, buying the troubled Sunday Times in Perth, Western Australia (1956) and over the next few years acquiring suburban and provincial newspapers in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and the Northern Territory, including the Sydney afternoon tabloid, The Daily Mirror (1960). The Economist describes Murdoch as "inventing the modern tabloid", as he developed a pattern for his newspapers, increasing sports and scandal coverage and adopting eye-catching headlines.
Murdoch's first foray outside Australia involved the purchase of a controlling interest in the New Zealand daily The Dominion. In January 1964, while touring New Zealand with friends in a rented Morris Minor after sailing across the Tasman, Murdoch read of a takeover bid for the Wellington paper by the British-based Canadian newspaper magnate, Lord Thomson of Fleet. On the spur of the moment, he launched a counter-bid. A four-way battle for control ensued in which the 32-year-old Murdoch was ultimately successful. Later in 1964, Murdoch launched The Australian, Australia's first national daily newspaper, which was based first in Canberra and later in Sydney. In 1972, Murdoch acquired the Sydney morning tabloid The Daily Telegraph from Australian media mogul Sir Frank Packer, who later regretted selling it to him. In 1984, Murdoch was appointed Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for services to publishing.
In 1999, Murdoch significantly expanded his music holdings in Australia by acquiring the controlling share in a leading Australian independent label, Michael Gudinski's Mushroom Records; he merged that with Festival Records, and the result was Festival Mushroom Records (FMR). Both Festival and FMR were managed by Murdoch's son James Murdoch for several years.
Political activities in Australia
Murdoch found a political ally in Sir John McEwen, leader of the Australian Country Party (now known as the National Party of Australia), who was governing in coalition with the larger Menzies-Holt-Gorton Liberal Party. From the very first issue of The Australian Murdoch began taking McEwen's side in every issue that divided the long-serving coalition partners. (The Australian, 15 July 1964, first edition, front page: "Strain in Cabinet, Liberal-CP row flares.") It was an issue that threatened to split the coalition government and open the way for the stronger Australian Labor Party to dominate Australian politics. It was the beginning of a long campaign that served McEwen well.
After McEwen and Menzies retired, Murdoch threw his growing power behind the Australian Labor Party under the leadership of Gough Whitlam and duly saw it elected on a social platform that included universal free health care, free education for all Australians to tertiary level, recognition of the People's Republic of China, and public ownership of Australia's oil, gas and mineral resources. Rupert Murdoch's backing of Whitlam turned out to be brief. Murdoch had already started his short-lived National Star newspaper in America, and was seeking to strengthen his political contacts there.
Asked about the Australian federal election, 2007 at News Corporation's annual general meeting in New York on 19 October 2007, its chairman Rupert Murdoch said, "I am not commenting on anything to do with Australian politics. I'm sorry. I always get into trouble when I do that." Pressed as to whether he believed Prime Minister John Howard should continue as prime minister, he said: "I have nothing further to say. I'm sorry. Read our editorials in the papers. It'll be the journalists who decide that – the editors." In 2009, in response to accusations by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd that News Limited was running vendettas against him and his government, Murdoch opined that Rudd was "oversensitive". Murdoch described Howard's successor, Labor Party Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, as "...more ambitious to lead the world [in tackling climate change] than to lead Australia..." and criticised Rudd's expansionary fiscal policies in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008 as unnecessary. Although News Limited's interests are extensive, also including the Daily Telegraph, the Courier-Mail and the Adelaide Advertiser, it was suggested by the commentator Mungo MacCallum in The Monthly that "the anti-Rudd push, if coordinated at all, was almost certainly locally driven" as opposed to being directed by Murdoch, who also took a different position from local editors on such matters as climate change and stimulus packages to combat the financial crisis.
Activities in the United Kingdom
Business activities in the United Kingdom
In 1968, Murdoch entered the British newspaper market with his acquisition of the populist News of the World, followed in 1969 with the purchase of the struggling daily The Sun from IPC. Murdoch turned The Sun into a tabloid format and reduced costs by using the same printing press for both newspapers. On acquiring it, he appointed Albert 'Larry' Lamb as editor and – Lamb recalled later – told him: "I want a tearaway paper with lots of tits in it". In 1997 The Sun attracted 10 million daily readers. In 1981, Murdoch acquired the struggling Times and Sunday Times from Canadian newspaper publisher Lord Thomson of Fleet. Ownership of The Times came to him through his relationship with Lord Thomson, who had grown tired of losing money on it as a result of an extended period of industrial action that stopped publication. In the light of success and expansion at The Sun the owners believed that Murdoch could turn the papers around. Harold Evans, editor of the Sunday Times from 1967, was switched to the daily Times, though he stayed only a year amid editorial conflict with Murdoch.
During the 1980s and early 1990s, Murdoch's publications were generally supportive of Britain's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. At the end of the Thatcher/Major era, Murdoch switched his support to the Labour Party and its leader, Tony Blair. The closeness of his relationship with Blair and their secret meetings to discuss national policies was to become a political issue in Britain. This later changed, with The Sun, in its English editions, publicly renouncing the ruling Labour government and lending its support to David Cameron's Conservative Party, which soon afterwards formed a coalition government. In Scotland, where the Tories had suffered a complete annihilation in 1997, the paper began to endorse the Scottish National Party (though not yet its flagship policy of independence), which soon after came to form the first ever outright majority in the proportionally elected Scottish Parliament. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown's official spokesman said in November 2009 that Brown and Murdoch "were in regular communication" and that "there is nothing unusual in the prime minister talking to Rupert Murdoch".
In 1986, Murdoch introduced electronic production processes to his newspapers in Australia, Britain and the United States. The greater degree of automation led to significant reductions in the number of employees involved in the printing process. In England, the move roused the anger of the print unions, resulting in a long and often violent dispute that played out in Wapping, one of London's docklands areas, where Murdoch had installed the very latest electronic newspaper purpose-built publishing facility in an old warehouse. The bitter Wapping dispute started with the dismissal of 6,000 employees who had gone on strike and resulted in street battles and demonstrations. Many on the political left in Britain alleged the collusion of Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government with Murdoch in the Wapping affair, as a way of damaging the British trade union movement. In 1987, the dismissed workers accepted a settlement of £60 million.
Murdoch's British-based satellite network, Sky Television, incurred massive losses in its early years of operation. As with many of his other business interests, Sky was heavily subsidised by the profits generated by his other holdings, but convinced rival satellite operator British Satellite Broadcasting to accept a merger on his terms in 1990. The merged company, BSkyB, has dominated the British pay-TV market ever since pursuing direct to home (DTH) satellite broadcasting. By 1996, BSkyB had more than 3.6 million subscribers, triple the number of cable customers in the UK. Murdoch has a seat on the Strategic Advisory Board of Genie Oil and Gas, having jointly investing with Lord Rothschild in a 5.5% stake in the company which conducted shale gas and oil exploration in Colorado, Mongolia, Israel and, controversially, the occupied Golan Heights.
In response to print media's decline and the increasing influence of online journalism during the 2000s, Murdoch proclaimed his support of the micropayments model for obtaining revenue from on-line news, although this has been criticised by some.
News Corporation has subsidiaries in the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, the Channel Islands and the Virgin Islands. From 1986, News Corporation's annual tax bill averaged around seven percent of its profits.
Political activities in United Kingdom
In Britain, in the 1980s, Murdoch formed a close alliance with Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher, and The Sun credited itself with helping her successor John Major to win an unexpected election victory in the 1992 general election, which had been expected to end in a hung parliament or a narrow win for Neil Kinnock's Labour. In the general elections of 1997, 2001 and 2005, Murdoch's papers were either neutral or supported Labour under Tony Blair.
The Labour Party, from when Tony Blair became leader in 1994, had moved from the Left to a more centrist position on many economic issues prior to 1997. Murdoch identifies himself as a libertarian, saying "What does libertarian mean? As much individual responsibility as possible, as little government as possible, as few rules as possible. But I'm not saying it should be taken to the absolute limit."
In 1998, Murdoch made an attempt to buy the football club Manchester United F.C., with an offer of £625 million, but this failed. It was the largest amount ever offered for a sports club. It was blocked by the United Kingdom's Competition Commission, which stated that the acquisition would have "hurt competition in the broadcast industry and the quality of British football".
On 28 June 2006, the BBC reported that Murdoch and News Corporation were considering backing new Conservative leader David Cameron at the next General Election – still up to four years away. In a later interview in July 2006, when he was asked what he thought of the Conservative leader, Murdoch replied "Not much". In a 2009 blog, it was suggested that in the aftermath of the News of the World phone hacking scandal which might yet have Transatlantic implications Murdoch and News Corporation might have decided to back Cameron. Despite this, there had already been a convergence of interests between the two men over the muting of Britain's communications regulator Ofcom.
In August 2008, British Conservative leader and future Prime Minister David Cameron accepted free flights to hold private talks and attend private parties with Murdoch on his yacht, the Rosehearty. Cameron has declared in the Commons register of interests he accepted a private plane provided by Murdoch's son-in-law, public relations guru Matthew Freud; Cameron has not revealed his talks with Murdoch. The gift of travel in Freud's Gulfstream IV private jet was valued at around £30,000. Other guests attending the "social events" included the then EU trade commissioner Lord Mandelson, the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and co-chairman of NBC Universal Ben Silverman. The Conservatives have not disclosed what was discussed.
In July 2011, it emerged that Cameron met key executives of Murdoch's News Corporation 26 times during the 14 months that Cameron had served as Prime Minister. It was also reported that Murdoch had given Cameron a personal guarantee that there would be no risk attached to hiring Andy Coulson, the former editor of News of the World, as the Conservative Party's communication director in 2007. This was in spite of Coulson having resigned as editor over phone hacking by a reporter. Cameron chose to take Murdoch's advice, despite warnings from Nick Clegg, Lord Ashdown and The Guardian. Coulson resigned his post in 2011 and was later arrested and questioned on allegations of further criminal activity at The News of the World, specifically the News International phone hacking scandal. As a result of the subsequent trial, Coulson was sentenced to 18 months in jail.
In June 2016, The Sun supported Vote Leave in the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum. Murdoch called the Brexit result "wonderful", comparing the decision to withdraw from the EU as like "a prison break….we're out".
Attempted takeover of BSkyB
News International phone hacking scandal
In July 2011, Murdoch, along with his son James, provided testimony before a British parliamentary committee regarding phone hacking. In the U.K., his media empire remains under fire as investigators continue to probe reports of other phone hacking.
On 14 July, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the House of Commons served a summons on Murdoch, his son James, and his former CEO Rebekah Brooks to testify before a committee on 19 July. After an initial refusal, the Murdochs confirmed they would attend after the committee issued them a summons to Parliament. The day before the committee, the website of the News Corporation publication The Sun was hacked, and a false story was posted on the front page claiming that Murdoch had died. Murdoch described the day of the committee "the most humble day of my life". He argued that since he ran a global business of 53,000 employees and that the News of the World was "just 1%" of this, he was not ultimately responsible for what went on at the tabloid. He added that he had not considered resigning, and that he and the other top executives had been completely unaware of the hacking.
On 15 July, Murdoch attended a private meeting in London with the family of Milly Dowler, where he personally apologized for the hacking of their murdered daughter's voicemail by a company he owns. On 16 and 17 July, News International published two full-page apologies in many of Britain's national newspapers. The first apology took the form of a letter, signed by Murdoch, in which he said sorry for the "serious wrongdoing" that occurred. The second was titled "Putting right what's gone wrong", and gave more detail about the steps News International was taking to address the public's concerns. In the wake of the allegations Murdoch accepted the resignations of Rebekah Brooks, head of Murdoch's British operations, and Les Hinton, head of Dow Jones who was chairman of Murdoch's British newspaper division when some of the abuses happened. They both deny any knowledge of any wrongdoing under their command.
On 27 February 2012, the day after the first issue of The Sun on Sunday was published, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers informed the Leveson Inquiry that police are investigating a "network of corrupt officials" as part of their inquiries into phone hacking and police corruption. She said that evidence suggested a "culture of illegal payments" at the Sun newspaper and that these payments allegedly made by the Sun were authorised at a senior level.
In testimony on 25 April 2012, Murdoch did not deny the quote attributed to him by his former editor of The Sunday Times, Harold Evans: "I give instructions to my editors all round the world, why shouldn't I in London?" On 1 May 2012, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee issued a report stating that Murdoch was "not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company".
On 3 July 2013, the Exaro website and Channel 4 News broke the story of a secretly recorded tape. The tape was recorded by Sun journalists and in it Murdoch can be heard telling them that the whole investigation was one big fuss over nothing, and that he, or his successors, would take care of any journalists who went to prison. He said: "Why are the police behaving in this way? It's the biggest inquiry ever, over next to nothing."
Activities in the United States
Murdoch made his first acquisition in the United States in 1973, when he purchased the San Antonio Express-News. Soon afterwards, he founded Star, a supermarket tabloid, and in 1976, he purchased the New York Post. On 4 September 1985, Murdoch became a naturalized citizen to satisfy the legal requirement that only US citizens were permitted to own US television stations. This resulted in Murdoch, in effect, renouncing his Australian citizenship.
In March 1984, Marvin Davis sold Marc Rich's interest in 20th Century Fox to Murdoch for $250 million due to Marc Rich's trade deals with Iran, which were sanctioned by the United States at the time. Marvin Davis later backed out of a deal with Murdoch to purchase John Kluge's Metromedia television stations. Rupert Murdoch bought the stations by himself, without Marvin Davis, and later bought out Davis's remaining stake in Fox for $325 million. The six television stations owned by Metromedia would form the nucleus of the Fox Broadcasting Company, founded on 9 October 1986, which would go on to have great success with programs such as The Simpsons and The X-Files.
In Australia, during 1987, he bought The Herald and Weekly Times Ltd, the company that his father had once managed. Rupert Murdoch's 20th Century Fox bought out the remaining assets of Four Star Television from Ronald Perelman's Compact Video in 1996. Most of Four Star Television's library of programs are controlled by 20th Century Fox Television today. After Murdoch's numerous buyouts during the buyout era of the eighties, News Corporation had built up financial debts of $7 billion (much from Sky TV in the UK), despite the many assets that were held by NewsCorp. The high levels of debt caused Murdoch to sell many of the American magazine interests he had acquired in the mid-1980s.
In 1993, Murdoch's Fox Network took exclusive coverage of the National Football Conference (NFC) of the National Football League (NFL) from CBS and increased programming to seven days a week. In 1995, Fox became the object of scrutiny from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), when it was alleged that News Ltd.'s Australian base made Murdoch's ownership of Fox illegal. However, the FCC ruled in Murdoch's favour, stating that his ownership of Fox was in the best interests of the public. That same year, Murdoch announced a deal with MCI Communications to develop a major news website and magazine, The Weekly Standard. Also that year, News Corporation launched the Foxtel pay television network in Australia in partnership with Telstra. In 1996, Murdoch decided to enter the cable news market with the Fox News Channel, a 24-hour cable news station. Ratings studies released in 2009 showed that the network was responsible for nine of the top ten programs in the "Cable News" category at that time. Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner (founder and former owner of CNN) are long-standing rivals. In late 2003, Murdoch acquired a 34% stake in Hughes Electronics, the operator of the largest American satellite TV system, DirecTV, from General Motors for $6 billion (USD). His Fox movie studio would go on to have global hits with Titanic and Avatar.
In 2004, Murdoch announced that he was moving News Corporation headquarters from Adelaide, Australia to the United States. Choosing a US domicile was designed to ensure that American fund managers could purchase shares in the company, since many were deciding not to buy shares in non-US companies.
On 20 July 2005, News Corporation bought Intermix Media Inc., which held Myspace, Imagine Games Network and other social networking-themed websites, for $580 million USD, making Murdoch a major player in online media concerns. In June 2011, it sold off Myspace for US$35 million. On 11 September 2005, News Corporation announced that it would buy IGN Entertainment for $650 million (USD).
In May 2007, Murdoch made a $5 billion offer to purchase Dow Jones. At the time, the Bancroft family, who had owned the Dow Jones for 105 years and controlled 64% of the shares at the time, declined the offer. Later, the Bancroft family confirmed a willingness to consider a sale. Besides Murdoch, the Associated Press reported that supermarket magnate Ron Burkle and Internet entrepreneur Brad Greenspan were among the other interested parties. In 2007, Murdoch acquired Dow Jones, which gave him such publications as The Wall Street Journal, Barron's Magazine, the Far Eastern Economic Review (based in Hong Kong) and SmartMoney.
In June 2014, Murdoch's 21st Century Fox made a bid for Time Warner at $85 per share in stock and cash ($80 billion total) which Time Warner's board of directors turned down in July. Warner's CNN unit would have been sold to ease antitrust issues of the purchase. On 5 August 2014 the company announced it had withdrawn its offer for Time Warner, and said it would spend $6 billion buying back its own shares over the following 12 months.
Political activities in the United States
McNight (2010) identifies four characteristics of his media operations: free market ideology; unified positions on matters of public policy; global editorial meetings; and opposition to liberal bias in other public media.
On 8 May 2006, the Financial Times reported that Murdoch would be hosting a fund-raiser for Senator Hillary Clinton's (D-New York) Senate re-election campaign. In a 2008 interview with Walt Mossberg, Murdoch was asked whether he had "anything to do with the New York Post's endorsement of Barack Obama in the democratic primaries." Without hesitating, Murdoch replied, "Yeah. He is a rock star. It's fantastic. I love what he is saying about education. I don't think he will win Florida... but he will win in Ohio and the election. I am anxious to meet him. I want to see if he will walk the walk." Murdoch is a strong supporter of Israel and its domestic policies.
In 2010, News Corporation gave US$1 million to the Republican Governors Association and $1 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Murdoch also served on the board of directors of the libertarian Cato Institute. Murdoch is also a supporter of the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect Intellectual Property Act.
Murdoch advocates more open immigration policies in western nations generally. In the United States, Murdoch and chief executives from several major corporations, including Hewlett-Packard, Boeing and Disney joined New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to form the Partnership for a New American Economy to advocate "for immigration reform – including a path to legal status for all illegal aliens now in the United States." The coalition, reflecting Murdoch and Bloomberg's own views, also advocates significant increases in legal immigration to the United States as a means of boosting America's sluggish economy and lowering unemployment. The Partnership's immigration policy prescriptions are notably similar to those of the Cato Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—both of which Murdoch has supported in the past.
The Wall Street Journal editorial page has similarly advocated for increased legal immigration, in contrast to the staunch anti-immigration stance of Murdoch's British newspaper, The Sun. On 5 September 2010, Murdoch testified before the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law Membership on the "Role of Immigration in Strengthening America's Economy." In his testimony, Murdoch called for ending mass deportations and endorsed a "comprehensive immigration reform" plan that would include a pathway to citizenship for all illegal immigrants.
In the 2012 U.S. Presidential election, Murdoch was critical of the competence of Mitt Romney's team but was nonetheless strongly supportive of a Republican victory, tweeting: "Of course I want him [Romney] to win, save us from socialism, etc."
In October 2015, Murdoch stirred controversy when he praised Republican Presidential candidate Ben Carson and referenced President Barack Obama, tweeting, "Ben and Candy Carson terrific. What about a real black President who can properly address the racial divide? And much else." After which he apologized, tweeting, "Apologies! No offence meant. Personally find both men charming."
Since Donald Trump became the U.S. president, Murdoch has shown support for him through the news stories broadcast in his media empire, including on Fox News. In early 2018, Mohammad bin Salman, the crown prince and de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, had an intimate dinner at Murdoch's Bel Air estate in Los Angeles.
Activities in Europe
Murdoch owns controlling interest in Sky Italia, a satellite television provider in Italy. Murdoch's business interests in Italy have been a source of contention since they began. In 2010 Murdoch won a media dispute with then Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. A judge ruled the then Prime Minister's media arm Mediaset prevented News Corporation's Italian unit, Sky Italia, from buying advertisements on its television networks.
Activities in Asia
In 1993, Murdoch acquired Star TV, a Hong Kong company founded by Richard Li for $1 billion (Souchou, 2000:28), and subsequently set up offices for it throughout Asia. The deal enables News International to broadcast from Hong Kong to India, China, Japan and over thirty other countries in Asia, becoming one of the biggest satellite TV networks in the east. However, the deal did not work out as Murdoch had planned, because the Chinese government placed restrictions on it that prevented it from reaching most of China.
In 1956 Murdoch married Patricia Booker, a former shop assistant and flight attendant from Melbourne; the couple had their only child, Prudence, in 1958. They divorced in 1967.
In 1967 Murdoch married Anna Maria Torv (Tõrv), a Scottish-born cadet journalist working for his Sydney newspaper The Daily Telegraph. In January 1998, 3 months before the announcement of his separation from Anna, a Roman Catholic, Murdoch was made a Knight Commander of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great (KSG), a papal honour awarded by Pope John Paul II. While Murdoch would often attend Mass with Torv, he never converted to Catholicism. Torv and Murdoch had three children: Elisabeth Murdoch (born in Sydney, Australia on 22 August 1968), Lachlan Murdoch (born in London, UK on 8 September 1971), and James Murdoch, (born in London on 13 December 1972). Murdoch's companies published two novels by his then wife: Family Business (1988) and Coming to Terms (1991), both considered to be vanity publications. They divorced in June 1999. Anna Murdoch received a settlement of US$1.2 billion in assets.
On 25 June 1999, 17 days after divorcing his second wife, Murdoch, then aged 68, married Chinese-born Wendi Deng. She was 30, a recent Yale School of Management graduate, and a newly appointed vice-president of his STAR TV. Murdoch had two daughters with her: Grace (born 2001) and Chloe (born 2003). Murdoch has six children in all, and is grandfather to thirteen grandchildren. On 13 June 2013, a News Corporation spokesperson confirmed that Murdoch filed for divorce from Deng in New York City, U.S. According to the spokesman, the marriage had been irretrievably broken for more than six months. Murdoch also ended his long-standing friendship with Tony Blair after suspecting him of having an affair with Deng while they were still married.
On 11 January 2016, Murdoch announced his engagement to former model Jerry Hall in a notice in The Times newspaper. On 4 March 2016, Murdoch, a week short of his 85th birthday, and 59-year-old Hall were married in London, at Spencer House; this is Murdoch's fourth marriage.
Murdoch has six children. His eldest child, Prudence MacLeod, was appointed on 28 January 2011 to the board of Times Newspapers Ltd, part of News International, which publishes The Times and The Sunday Times. Murdoch's elder son Lachlan, formerly the Deputy Chief Operating Officer at the News Corporation and publisher of the New York Post, was Murdoch's heir apparent before resigning from his executive posts at the global media company at the end of July 2005. Lachlan's departure left James Murdoch, Chief Executive of the satellite television service British Sky Broadcasting since November 2003 as the only Murdoch son still directly involved with the company's operations, though Lachlan has agreed to remain on the News Corporation's board.
After graduating from Vassar College and marrying classmate Elkin Kwesi Pianim (the son of Ghanaian financial and political mogul Kwame Pianim) in 1993, Murdoch's daughter Elisabeth and her husband purchased a pair of NBC-affiliate television stations in California, KSBW and KSBY, with a $35 million loan provided by her father. By quickly re-organising and re-selling them at a $12 million profit in 1995, Elisabeth emerged as an unexpected rival to her brothers for the eventual leadership of the publishing dynasty. But, after divorcing Pianim in 1998 and quarrelling publicly with her assigned mentor Sam Chisholm at BSkyB, she struck out on her own as a television and film producer in London. She has since enjoyed independent success, in conjunction with her second husband, Matthew Freud, the great-grandson of Sigmund Freud, whom she met in 1997 and married in 2001.
It is not known how long Murdoch will remain as News Corporation's CEO. For a while the American cable television entrepreneur John Malone was the second-largest voting shareholder in News Corporation after Murdoch himself, potentially undermining the family's control. In 2007, the company announced that it would sell certain assets and give cash to Malone's company in exchange for its stock. In 2007, the company issued Murdoch's older children voting stock.
Murdoch has two children with Wendi Deng: Grace (b. New York, 19 November 2001) and Chloe (b. New York, 17 July 2003). It was revealed in September 2011 that Tony Blair is Grace's godfather. There is reported to be tension between Murdoch and his oldest children over the terms of a trust holding the family's 28.5% stake in News Corporation, estimated in 2005 to be worth about $6.1 billion. Under the trust, his children by Wendi Deng share in the proceeds of the stock but have no voting privileges or control of the stock. Voting rights in the stock are divided 50/50 between Murdoch on the one side and his children of his first two marriages. Murdoch's voting privileges are not transferable but will expire upon his death and the stock will then be controlled solely by his children from the prior marriages, although their half-siblings will continue to derive their share of income from it. It is Murdoch's stated desire to have his children by Deng given a measure of control over the stock proportional to their financial interest in it (which would mean, if Murdoch dies while at least one of the children is a minor, that Deng would exercise that control). It does not appear that he has any strong legal grounds to contest the present arrangement, and both ex-wife Anna and their three children are said to be strongly resistant to any such change.
Portrayal on television, in film, books and music
Murdoch and rival newspaper and publishing magnate Robert Maxwell are thinly fictionalised as "Keith Townsend" and "Richard Armstrong" in The Fourth Estate by British novelist and former MP Jeffrey Archer.
Murdoch has been portrayed by:
- Barry Humphries in the 1991 mini-series Selling Hitler
- Hugh Laurie in a parody of It's a Wonderful Life in the television show A Bit of Fry & Laurie
- Ben Mendelsohn in the film Black and White
- Paul Elder in The Late Shift
- Himself on The Simpsons, first in "Sunday, Cruddy Sunday" and later in "Judge Me Tender"
- Patrick Brammall in the 2-part mini-series Power Games
It was speculated that the character of Elliot Carver, the global media magnate and main villain in the 1997 James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies, is based on Murdoch. The screenwriter of the film, Bruce Feirstein, stated that Carver was actually inspired by British press magnate Robert Maxwell, who was one of Murdoch's rivals.
Whenever the Eagles drummer and lead singer Don Henley performs his 1981 hit solo release "Dirty Laundry", which directly criticizes what Henley sees as the news industry favoring style and sensationalism over substance and proper journalism, he says that he'd "like to dedicate this song to Mr. Rupert Murdoch."
In the 1997 film Fierce Creatures, the head of Octopus Inc.'s Rod McCain (initials R.M.) character is likely modelled after Murdoch.
In 1999, the Ted Turner owned TBS channel aired an original sitcom, The Chimp Channel. This featured an all-simian cast and the role of an Australian TV veteran named Harry Waller. The character is described as "a self-made gazillionaire with business interests in all sorts of fields. He owns newspapers, hotel chains, sports franchises and genetic technologies, as well as everyone's favourite cable TV channel, The Chimp Channel." Waller is thought to be a parody of Murdoch, a long-time rival of Turner.
In 2004, the movie Outfoxed included many interviews accusing Fox News of pressuring reporters to report only one side of news stories, in order to influence viewers' political opinions.
In 2012, the satirical show Hacks, broadcast on the UK's Channel 4, made obvious comparisons with Murdoch using the fictional character "Stanhope Feast", portrayed by Michael Kitchen, as well as other central figures in the phone hacking scandal.
Influence, wealth and reputation
According to Forbes' real time list of world's billionaires, Murdoch is the 34th richest person in the US and the 96th richest person in the world, with a net worth of US$13.1 billion as of February 2017. In 2016, Forbes ranked "Rupert Murdoch & Family" as the 35th most powerful person in the world.
In 2003 Murdoch bought "Rosehearty", an 11 bedroom home on a 5-acre waterfront estate in Centre Island, New York.
In August 2013, Terry Flew, Professor of Media and Communications at Queensland University of Technology, wrote an article for the Conversation publication in which he verified a claim by former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd that Murdoch owned 70% of Australian newspapers in 2011. Flew's article showed that News Corp Australia owned 23% of the nation's newspapers in 2011, according to the Finkelstein Review of Media and Media Regulation, but, at the time of the article, the corporation's titles accounted for 59% of the sales of all daily newspapers, with weekly sales of 17.3 million copies.
In connection with Murdoch's testimony to the Leveson Inquiry "into the ethics of the British press", editor of Newsweek International, Tunku Varadarajan, referred to him as "the man whose name is synonymous with unethical newspapers".
News Corp papers were accused of supporting the campaign of the Australian Liberal government and influencing public opinion during the 2013 federal election. Following the announcement of the Liberal Party victory at the polls, Murdoch tweeted "Aust. election public sick of public sector workers and phony welfare scroungers sucking life out of economy. Other nations to follow in time."
In November 2015, former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott said that Murdoch "arguably has had more impact on the wider world than any other living Australian".
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The OFT has already found BSkyB to be dominant in the wholesale market for premium programming content (particularly certain sports and movie rights). BSkyB also currently controls the satellite network for direct to the home (DTH) pay television in the UK. Given its control of premium programming content, it also controls a vital input into the cable companies transmission and programme activities
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Robert Jay QC: This is 4 March 1983. You apparently said this: "I give instruction to my editors all round the world, why shouldn't I in London?" Do you remember saying that?
Murdoch: No, I don't.
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Asked if there is any truth to recent press describing his newfound piety, Murdoch replies: "No. They say I'm a born again Christian and a Catholic convert and so on. I'm certainly a practising Christian, I go to church quite a bit but not every Sunday and I tend to go to Catholic church—because my wife is Catholic, I have not formally converted. And I get increasingly disenchanted with the C of E or Episcopalians as they call themselves here. But no, I'm not intensely religious as I'm sometimes described." Interviewed in 1992. Nicholas Coleridge, Paper Tigers (1993), p. 487.
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