Keith Rupert Murdoch (born March 11, 1931), Australian-born American media proprietor, is the major shareholder and managing director of News Corporation, one of the world's largest and most influential media corporations. He is one of the few chief executives of any multinational media corporation who (through his family company) has a controlling ownership share in the companies he runs. In recent years he has been devolving management of his companies to his son Lachlan Murdoch, who is expected to succeed him.
Murdoch is generally regarded as the most politically influential media proprietor in the world, and is regularly courted by politicians in the United States, Britain and Australia. His politics are generally conservative, although this has not always been so, and his newspapers sometimes support non-conservative parties or candidates. Beginning with newspapers in his native Australia, he expanded into the British and American media markets, and in recent years has become a powerful force in satellite television, the film industy and other forms of media.
Early life and career
Murdoch was born in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, and educated at Oxford University (Worcester College), United Kingdom. His father was Sir Keith Murdoch, a reporter and adviser to Billy Hughes (prime minister of Australia during World War I) who became Australia's most influential newspaper executive, directing the Melbourne-based Herald and Weekly Times group. Murdoch was deeply influenced by his father, and although he clearly wished to emulate him, he often rebelled against him.
Keith Murdoch was a stern and somewhat distant figure who was reportedly often frustrated by his son's early progress and despaired of him being able to take over from him. Murdoch's mother Dame Elisabeth Murdoch , was and remains a strong influence on Rupert, usually in the direction of moderation.
After his father's sudden death, Murdoch had expected to inherit a considerable fortune and a prominent position. In the event he was left with a relatively modest inheritance; after death duties and taxes, the main legacy was ownership of the Adelaide News (which gave its name to his company).
In 1964 Murdoch made his first important advance when he founded The Australian, Australia's first and only national daily newspaper, based first in Canberra and later in Sydney. The Australian, a quality broadsheet, gave Murdoch a new respectability as a "quality" newspaper publisher, and also greater political influence since The Australian has always had an elite readership, if not always a large circulation.
In 1972 Murdoch acquired the Sydney Daily Telegraph from Sir Frank Packer, making him one of the big three Australian newspaper proprietors, alongside Sir Warwick Fairfax and his father's old Herald and Weekly Times Ltd in Melbourne. In the 1972 election Murdoch swung his newspapers behind Gough Whitlam and the Australian Labor Party, but by 1975 he had turned against Labor, and since then has generally (though not always) supported the Liberal Party.
Over the next 10 years, as his press empire grew, Murdoch established a hugely lucrative financial base, and these profits were routinely used to subsidise further acquisitions. In his early years of newspaper ownership Murdoch was an aggressive, micromanaging entrepreneur. His standard tactic was to buy loss-making Australian newspapers and turn them around by introducing radical management and editorial changes and fighting no-holds-barred circulation wars with his competitors. By the 1970s, this power was so strong that Murdoch was able to acquire leading newspapers and magazines in both London and New York, as well as many other media holdings.
His desire for dominant cross-media ownership manifested early – he bought an ailing Australian record label, Festival Records, in 1961 and within a few years it had become the leading local recording company. He also bought a TV station in Wollongong, New South Wales, hoping to use it to break into the Sydney TV market, but found himself frustrated by Australia's cross-media ownership laws, which prevented him from owning both a major newspaper and a TV station in the same city. Since then he has consistently lobbied, both personally and through his papers, to have these laws changed in his favour.
Acquisitions in Britain
He moved to Britain in the mid 1960s and rapidly became a major force there after his acquisitions of the News Of The World , The Sun and later The Times and The Sunday Times, which he bought in 1981 from the Thomson family, who had bought it from the Astor family in 1966). Both takeovers further reinforced his growing reputation as a ruthless and cunning business operator. His takeover of The Times aroused great hostility among traditionalists, who feared he would take it "downmarket." This led directly to the founding of The Independent in 1986 as an alternative quality daily.
Murdoch has a particular genius for tabloid newspapers. The Sun in London, The Post in New York, The Herald Sun in Melbourne and The Daily Telegraph in Sydney are among the most successful, profitable and influential tabloids in the world. Despite his personal conservatism, he allowed his editors (particularly in Britain) to exploit the selling power of soft-core Censored page in the form of topless page three girls (such as Samantha Fox) to increase circulation. As a result, Auberon Waugh of Private Eye dubbed him The Dirty Digger, a name that has endured.
During 1986-87, Murdoch moved to adjust the production process of his British newspapers, over which the printing unions had long maintained a highly restrictive grip. This led to a confrontation with the printing unions NGA and SOGAT. The move of News International's London operation to Wapping in the East End resulted in nightly battles outside the new plant. Delivery vans and depots were frequently and violently attacked. Ultimately the unions capitulated and other media companies soon followed Murdoch's lead.
Before the Wapping dispute, most British newspapers were chronically unprofitable, partly (though not entirely) because of inefficient and restrictive work practices imposed by the printing unions. These included overstaffing, inheritance of jobs by family members and most importantly resistance to the introduction of new printing technology which would have caused both job losses and the reduction in the power of the unions. The Wapping plant was planned, and built in secrecy before the unions became aware of its existence. Murdoch and the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher co-operated during this affair.
Moving into the United States
In 1985 Murdoch became a United States citizen to satisfy the legal requirement that only United States citizens could own American television stations. In 1987 he bought The Herald and Weekly Times Ltd in Australia, the company that his father had once managed. By 1991 his Australian-based News Corporation had amassed huge debts which forced Murdoch to sell many of the American magazine interests he had acquired in the mid-1980s. Much of this debt came from his British-based BSkyB satellite network, which incurred massive losses in its early years of operation, which (in his customary manner) he heavily subsidised with profits from his other holdings until he was able to drive out his main competitor.
In 1995 Murdoch's Fox Network became the object of scrutiny from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) when it was alleged that News Limited's Australian base made Murdoch's ownership of Fox illegal. The FCC, however, ruled in Murdoch's favour, stating that his ownership of Fox was in the public's best interests. In the same year Murdoch announced a deal with MCI to develop a major news website as well as funding a conservative magazine, The Weekly Standard. Also in 1995, in partnership with Telstra, News Corporation launched the Foxtel pay television network into Australia.
In 1996 Fox established the FOX News Channel, a 24 hour news channel whose editorial programming primarily reflects Murdoch's conservative views. Since its launch it has consistently eroded CNN's market share to the point where it now bills itself as the "most watched cable news channel". This is due in part to recent ratings studies, released in the fourth quarter of 2004, showing that the network had nine of the top ten programs in the "Cable News" category.
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 the two as Festival Mushroom Records (FMR). Both Festival and FMR were managed by Murdoch's son James Murdoch for several years.
Murdoch has been married three times. His first marriage ended in the late 1950s after only a few years. In 1961 he married an employee, journalist Anna Murdoch. They had three children, Elizabeth, Lachlan and James. Anna and Rupert divorced acrimoniously in 1998 after it was revealed that Murdoch had been conducting a long-running affair with another employee, Wendi Deng, a junior executive in News Corporation's Asian operations, who was 40 years his junior; they married soon afterwards.
Murdoch has four children from his previous marriages; his elder son Lachlan Murdoch was expected to take over running the corporation at some stage. However, in November 2003 James Murdoch was appointed head of Murdoch's British Sky Broadcasting operations. Murdoch has two young children with his current wife.
In 1999 The Economist reported that Murdoch had made £1.4 billion ($2.1 billion) in profits over the previous 11 years but had paid no net corporation tax. It further reported, after an examination of what was available of the accounts, that Murdoch would normally have expected to pay about $350m tax: enough to "build seven new hospitals, 50 secondary schools or 300 primary schools". The article explained that the corporation's complex structure, international scope and use of offshore havens allowed News Corporation to avoid tax.
In late 2003, Murdoch acquired a 34 percent stake in Hughes Electronics, operator of the largest American satellite TV system, DirecTV, from General Motors for $6 billion. Among his properties around the world are The Times and the New York Post (he turned the Post from New York's most liberal paper into its most conservative).
In 2004 Murdoch announced that he was moving News Corporations' base out of Australia and that it would henceforward be incorporated in America. This was widely seen as a reaction to the Howard Liberal government's inability to alter Australia's media cross-ownership rules, which Murdoch has known to have wanted changed for decades, and which have prevented him from acquiring more newspapers and TV stations in Australian cities.
In December 2004 Murdoch purchased a penthouse apartment in New York for $44 million, the highest price ever paid for a residence in New York.
Murdoch and politics
While at Oxford Murdoch was active in the Labour Club, and he actively supported the Australian Labor Party for some years. Since 1975, however, he has generally supported the Liberal Party. In Britain he formed a close alliance with Margaret Thatcher, and The Sun was widely credited with helping John Major win an unexpected election victory in 1992. In 1997, however, Murdoch's papers were either neutral or supported Labour under Tony Blair. In the US he has been a long-time supporter of the Republican Party and was a friend of Ronald Reagan. His papers strongly supported George W. Bush in both 2000 and 2004, while the Fox News Channel is criticized for its percieved political conservatism.
Murdoch is often accused of running partisan media coverage for political parties that promote policies and decisions which favour his commercial interests. For example, it is believed that Murdoch tried to suppress publication of the memoirs of Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, in an attempt to curry favour with China. Patten's book was critical of the Chinese government. Whatever the motives, the book was dropped from publication by Murdoch's HarperCollins publishing company. It was only because of Patten's political influence that the story came to light and the book was published by another firm. It is speculated that Murdoch wanted to please the Chinese government because it happened around the time he was attempting to get a foothold in the Chinese market with the launch of Star TV.
Murdoch's British media outlets generally support eurosceptic positions, and generally show contempt for Britain's European partners. Murdoch publications worldwide tend to adopt anti-French and pro-American positions. During the buildup to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, all 175 Murdoch-owned newspapers worldwide editorialized in favor of the war.  http://media.guardian.co.uk/mediaguardian/story/0,7558,896864,00.html
- Forbes.com: Forbes 400 Richest in America http://www.forbes.com/finance/lists/54/2004/LIR.jhtml?passListId=54&passYear=200
- TIME.com: Rupert Murdoch -- Oct. 25, 1999 http://www.time.com/time/magazine/intl/article/0,9171,1107991025-33716,00.html
- Rupert Murdoch Biography and Quotations http://www.woopidoo.com/biography/rupert-murdoch.htm from Woopidoo
- Murdoch's unbreakable censorship http://www.turkishdailynews.com/old_editions/03_08_98/for.htm from Turkish Daily News
- Satellite Broadcasting: Party Dominance Vs. Cultural Imperialism http://www.twlcic.com/cm/icm2/satellite.html from China Information Centre
- LookSmart - Rupert Murdoch http://search.looksmart.com/p/browse/us1/us317829/us317861/us547101/us553146/us5
48496/ directory category
- Yahoo - Rupert Murdoch http://dir.yahoo.com/News_and_Media/People/Murdoch__Rupert/ directory category
Last updated: 02-08-2005 12:09:52