Murdoch bid a bold move

Media mogul's offer typical of audacious style

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May 02, 2007|By Tom Incantalupo | Tom Incantalupo,Newsday

Rupert Murdoch's $5 billion bid yesterday for Dow Jones & Co. typifies the audacity of the often-controversial chairman and chief executive of News Corp.

Audacity and fast moves are Murdoch's style. And mostly, he makes a lot of money.

His News Corp. kingdom includes the Fox TV and cable network, the New York Post, DirecTV, British Sky Broadcasting, Twentieth Century Fox, Myspace.com, Harper Collins and much more in America, Britain, continental Europe, Australia and elsewhere.

Born into a wealthy regional newspaper family in Australia in 1931, Keith Rupert Mudoch - named Keith at his father's insistance, but called Rupert at his mother's - was educated at Oxford University.

After graduation, he worked for a while as a reporter in Great Britain ("just for experience," he once said) before returning home to Australia to take over the family business left by his father, who had died in 1952.

Building the business, he quickly earned a reputation - and some criticism - for tabloid journalism at its most extreme: the sensational, the naked, the outrageous, anything to sell newspapers.

Later, he would be called anti-union, especially in Great Britain, and be accused of leading the dumbing down of the news media and using holdings such as Fox to further his personal conservative agenda.

Murdoch rarely gives interviews, but defended himself in one, saying, "I'm rather sick of snobs who tell us they're bad papers, snobs who only read papers that no one else wants."

He added the London-based News of the World to his holdings in 1968 and later The Sun, The Times of London and the Sunday London Times into what was then the News International group.

In the 1980s, he added the New York Post, remaking it in his own politically conservative but unorthodox image so that it topped itself day after day with outrageous Page 1 headlines such as the infamous "Headless Body in Topless Bar."

In a speech in 2005 to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, he said, doing business the old way just won't wash if newspapers are to survive against competitors, especially the Internet.

"We need to realize," Murdoch said, "that the next generation of people accessing news and information, whether from newspapers or any other source, have a different set of expectations about the kind of news they will get, including when and how they will get it, where they will get it from, and who they will get it from."

He put his money where his mouth was, big time, in 2005, spending what Forbes magazine called "a geyser of cash" - $1.3 billion - on several Web sites, most notably MySpace, a social networking site.

"I think it's very early days yet on the Internet," he told TV host Charlie Rose in a 2006 appearance. "It`s not a big deal getting onto the Internet. It's a big deal having a good idea."

He talked also about a property that isn't making money - the New York Post, forecasting that it will "in a couple of years, when we can get firmly past the Daily News."

Murdoch, a U.S. citizen since 1985, lives in New York with his third wife. He is the father of six children.

His eldest son, Lachlan, left the company in 2005 in a dispute with his father, reportedly about inheritance.

It's not clear who will take over when Murdoch leaves, but he told Rose on TV that he has no intention of retiring.

"I mean, when someone taps me on the shoulder and says I`m losing it, then I`ll have to make way," he said.

Tom Incantalupo writes for Newsday.

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