Murdoch, Rupert


Murdoch, Rupert
▪ 1999

      In 1998 one of the most talked-about conflicts in baseball took place off the field and in the boardroom. Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch revealed in late 1997 that he planned to purchase the Los Angeles Dodgers for a record-high price of $350 million. Despite the protest of media giant and Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner, a longtime critic of Murdoch, on March 19, 1998, the sale was approved by all but two major league team owners.

      Born on March 11, 1931, in Melbourne, Australia, Murdoch received an M.A. (1953) from Worcester College, Oxford. Upon the death of his father, a renowned Australian war correspondent and publisher, he was left with two small Adelaide newspapers, the Sunday Mail and The News. With little experience in the publishing field, he returned to Australia in 1954 to head them. Focusing their content on scandals, sex, sports, and crime, Murdoch watched as circulation numbers for the revamped journals increased dramatically. Having discovered the marketability of "soft news" and scandal, he spent the next four decades acquiring and reworking other publications. He built a media empire that included such newspapers as the News of the World, The Sun, The Star, and the New York Post; magazines such as TV Guide and Seventeen; radio and television stations; and Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. His diverse assets also included such properties as The Times of London and Harper & Row Publishers.

      In 1987 Murdoch launched the Fox television network to compete with "The Big Three"— NBC, CBS, and ABC. Though much of its programming was considered in poor taste, the network proved to be a viable competitor with such innovative shows as "In Living Color," "The Simpsons," and "The X-Files," and Fox repeatedly outbid its stunned competitors in the 1990s for shares in the broadcasting rights to National Football League, National Hockey League, and major league baseball games. Though many of his colleagues respected Murdoch's ability to create a fourth television network and to turn fledgling newspapers into commercial successes, Turner consistently focused on negative aspects of Murdoch's achievements, referring to him as "the schlockmeister." In 1996 Murdoch further infuriated Turner when he inaugurated the Fox News Channel to compete with the Turner-owned Cable News Network. By purchasing the Dodgers, Murdoch intensified the rivalry—this time in yet another direction.

LAURA RODNITZKY

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▪ Australian publisher
in full  Keith Rupert Murdoch  
born March 11, 1931, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
 
 Australian-born newspaper publisher and media entrepreneur, founder and head of the global media holding company the News Corporation Ltd., which governed News Limited (Australia), News International (U.K.), and News America Holdings Inc. (U.S.). Murdoch's corporate interests centred on newspaper, magazine, book, and electronic publishing; television broadcasting; and film and video production, principally in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

      Murdoch, the son of Sir Keith Murdoch (1886–1952), a famous Australian war correspondent and publisher, studied at Worcester College, Oxford (M.A., 1953), and briefly worked as an editor on Lord Beaverbrook's London Daily Express, where he first gained practical experience in the sensationalist journalism that would be a major influence early in his career as a publisher. His father having died, he returned to Australia in 1954 to take over his inheritance, the Sunday Mail and The News, both of Adelaide; he quickly converted the latter into a paper dominated by news of sex and scandal, often writing its banner headlines himself. The News's circulation soared, and he then went about instituting similar changes in papers that he bought in Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, and Brisbane.

      By the time that Murdoch acquired his first British newspaper in 1969—the News of the World of London—he had put together a proven formula for boosting circulation, which entailed an emphasis on crime, sex, scandal, and human-interest stories with boldface headlines, prolific sports reporting, and outspokenly conservative editorializing. This formula was successful with both the News of the World and The Sun, a London daily that he acquired the following year.

      In 1973 Murdoch entered the American newspaper business by purchasing two San Antonio, Texas, dailies, one of which—the San Antonio News (later the Express-News)—he transformed into a sex-and-scandal sheet that soon dominated the city's afternoon market. In 1974 he introduced a national weekly sensationalist tabloid, the Star, and in 1976 he purchased the afternoon tabloid New York Post, but in the late 1980s he sold both, profitably; he repurchased the Post in 1993. He also purchased the Boston Herald American from the Hearst Corporation in 1982 and changed the name to the Boston Herald (sold 1994). He bought TV Guide in 1988. Overall in the 1980s and '90s he bought and later sold a number of American publications—such as the Chicago Sun-Times, the New York City Village Voice, and New York magazine. Among Murdoch's diverse publications were a number of more conventional and respected newspapers, such as The Times of London and the Sunday Times (both acquired in 1981) and the Australian (a national daily that he established in 1964). Murdoch took residence in the United States in 1974 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1985, based in New York City.

      In the 1980s and '90s Murdoch amassed major holdings in other communications ventures, including radio and television stations and video, film, and record companies, as well as book publishing. In 1985 he acquired the Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation and bought several independent American television stations from Metromedia, Inc., consolidating both these ventures into a new company, Fox, Inc. (Fox Broadcasting Company), which has since become a major broadcast television network in the United States, rivaling ABC, CBS, and NBC. He bought the Australian news group the Herald and Weekly Times Ltd. in 1987. He thereafter purchased a number of book-publishing companies—including, in the United States, the prestigious Harper & Row Publishers (1987), the religious publisher Zondervan (1988), and the giant textbook and trade publisher Scott, Foresman & Company (1989), and, in the United Kingdom, the venerable William Collins PLC (1989); these companies and some operations in Australia and New Zealand were merged in 1990 as HarperCollins Publishers. In Britain in 1989 Murdoch inaugurated Sky Television, a four-channel satellite service, which merged with the rival British Satellite Broadcasting in 1990 to become British Sky Broadcasting.

      This heady expansion burdened Murdoch's international media conglomerate with a heavy debt, which he reduced by selling off New York, Seventeen, the Daily Racing Form, and several other American magazines. In 1993 he purchased Star TV, a pan-Asian television service based in Hong Kong, as part of his plan to build a global television network. In 1995 the News Corporation entered into a partnership with MCI Communications Corporation, a major provider of long-distance telecommunications services in the United States. Murdoch subsequently looked to increase his company's Internet holdings, and in 2005 he bought Intermix Media, owner of MySpace.com, a social-networking site that had more than 30 million members. Two years later he made news with the announcement that the News Corporation was acquiring Dow Jones & Company, publisher of The Wall Street Journal (Wall Street Journal, The), for $5 billion.

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Universalium. 2010.

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