The Life of Rupert Murdoch, 20th Century’s Last Media Mogul

As Rupert Murdoch turns 90, we look at the life of twentieth century’s biggest media mogul.

Updated
World
4 min read
Rupert Murdoch in 2008. 
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(This article was first published on 12 June 2015 and is being reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark Rupert Murdoch’s birthday.)

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch turns 89 today, an age at which most would have sought a calm, retired life. Mr Murdoch, however, shows no signs of taking things easy or slowly. It’s only been a few years since his marriage (his fourth) to actress and model Jerry Hall.

Media proprietor Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall pose outside St Bride’s Church in London for a ceremony to celebrate their wedding, on 5 March 2016. 
Media proprietor Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall pose outside St Bride’s Church in London for a ceremony to celebrate their wedding, on 5 March 2016. 
(Photo: AP) 

In 2015, Murdoch handed over the reins of his media dynasty to his sons – an empire that began with Australia’s News Limited, which Murdoch inherited from his father, Sir Keith Arthur Murdoch nearly a century ago.

Sir Keith Murdoch.
Sir Keith Murdoch.
(Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

Handing over the Reigns

James Murdoch took over as CEO, and Lachlan Murdoch as executive co-chairman of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc in 2015. There was some talk in Wall Street about how efficiently the pair will run the conglomerate behind Fox News, the Fox broadcast network and the 20th Century Fox movie studio.

In this 11 March 2014 file photo, News Corp. Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch (centre) and his sons, Lachlan (left) and James Murdoch attend the 2014 Television Academy Hall of Fame in Beverly Hills, California.
In this 11 March 2014 file photo, News Corp. Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch (centre) and his sons, Lachlan (left) and James Murdoch attend the 2014 Television Academy Hall of Fame in Beverly Hills, California.
(Photo: AP)

Murdoch has run the company known as News Corporation since 1979, before it split into two businesses. While the newspaper operations stayed with News Corp, the more profitable film and TV businesses became Twenty-First Century Fox Inc.

An earlier picture of Rupert Murdoch.
An earlier picture of Rupert Murdoch.
(Photo Courtesy: The Telegraph)

The Journey So Far

Starting from the single newspaper Rupert Murdoch inherited from his father, he built an empire in Australia with the Daily Mirror and the Australian. Later in 1960s, it expanded to The Times of London and the Sunday Times in Britain, the New York Post, Twenty-First Century Fox and Fox News in the US, the Sky satellite broadcasting network in Europe, and the Star TV network in India.

Rupert Murdoch (left) shakes hands with SM Krishna, former Chief Minister  of Karnataka, in 2000. 
Rupert Murdoch (left) shakes hands with SM Krishna, former Chief Minister of Karnataka, in 2000. 
(Photo: Reuters)

The Economist credits him for inventing “the modern tabloid newspaper – a stew of sexual titillation, moral outrage and political aggression.”

Murdoch was asked about the quality of tabloid news by Justice Leveson’s inquiry into phone hacking and the ethics and culture of the UK media.

Q: Did tabloid standards deteriorate between 1968 and 1981 under him?
No, says Murdoch.

“We expanded to a new young public... The Sun has not been a better paper than it is today. I couldn’t say the same about my competitors but we won’t go into that.”
– Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch’s caricature.
Rupert Murdoch’s caricature.
(Photo Courtesy: DonkeyHotey)

Television Gamble

Fox Network was launched in the 1980s after ABC, CBS and NBC had dominated for a half-century. Then he tackled cable TV with Fox News, which quickly toppled CNN as the cable news leader.

Rupert Murdoch at a press conference in 1995. 
Rupert Murdoch at a press conference in 1995. 
(Photo: Reuters)

Social Media Failure

In 2005, News Corp tried to get a head start on the social media scene by buying Myspace for $580 million. Laid waste by the Facebook juggernaut, Myspace was later sold for just $35 million.

Rupert Murdoch (right) and MySpace Chief Executive Chris DeWolfe speak at the Web 2.0 summit in San Francisco, California, on 17  October  2007. 
Rupert Murdoch (right) and MySpace Chief Executive Chris DeWolfe speak at the Web 2.0 summit in San Francisco, California, on 17  October 2007. 
(Photo: Reuters)

NOTW Phone Hacking Scandal

In recent years, Murdoch was stung by a phone hacking scandal by his journalists in the News of the World, which shut shop in July 2011. Murdoch later appeared before British lawmakers and ended up apologising for the incident, which also led to many arrests.

Continued Grip Despite Handover

Murdoch still retains a grip on the corporation through a family trust that owns 38 percent of the voting shares.

(Photo: Reuters)
(Photo: Reuters)

News Corp’s Holdings Include:

- The Wall Street Journal and New York Post newspapers
- Publishing and financial information company Dow Jones
- Vogue and GQ magazines
- HarperCollins Publishers
- The Times of London, The Sunday Times and The Sun newspapers
- The Australian and The Herald Sun

Twenty-First Century Fox Owns:

- The studio Twentieth-Century Fox Film
- Fox Networks, Fox News, Fox Broadcasting, Fox Sports, Fox Business and FX
- European satellite TV company, Sky
- Media and entertainment company, Star India
- It also has majority control over the regional entertainment sports network Yes, and is a partner in National Geographic Channels and the Big Ten Network

(With AP inputs)

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