Rupert Murdoch turns eighty today. With the $57-billion dollar News Corporation under his helm, TV stations and newspapers all over the globe, a new iPad only publication, and a pending deal for the takeover of yet another broadcasting giant, Murdoch is officially the world's preeminent media mogul--and now an octogenarian media mogul at that. Here's a brief rundown of some highlights of his first eight decades.
Murdoch's Youth: The Boy Who Would Be Media King Rupert Murdoch spends his youth in Australia, and attended boarding school outside of Melbourne. He is born into a media family: his father was Sir Keith Murdoch, a regional newspaper magnate based out of Melbourne. Rupert was a lad who was "not the sort of person who liked playing in a team," his mother recalls in the BBC.
Twenties: Back from Oxford to Adelaide, Australia According to a piece in Esquire, Murdoch is attracted to the competitive media scene on Fleet Street in London and spends a few months sitting in at The Daily Express, an experience he later calls "one of the happiest...of my life." After studying at Oxford, Rupert returns to Australia after his father passes away to take over the reigns to the family business, taking charge of the province-based Adelaide News.
Thirties: Murdoch Buys a London Tabloid In 1968, Murdoch beats out Robert Maxwell to buy the tabloid News of the World in his late thirties. The rise continues.
Forties: Finding an Outsized Home for His Outsized Ambitioni and New Acquisitions Murdoch moves to New York in the 1970's. It's an American love affair: "The minute he got here, at age 42 in 1973, he fell in love with the place. His social awkwardness found a home: he could talk about business night and day; small talk wasn't necessary in New York if you had business talk," biographer Michael Wolff later says in The Guardian. Murdoch buys up the New York Post and New York Magazine and, in short order, revitalizes both.
Fifties: The Business-Minded 1980s Are Good to Murdoch According to the BBC, to many people the 1980's (Murdoch's fifties) defined Murdoch. Says Wolff, regarding the eighties:
The very nature of money and business changed. There was suddenly an entire social class made up of people like Murdoch. The dealmaker class. Mania took over. Murdoch began to buy everything he could: Twentieth Century Fox, television stations around the country, more newspapers, more magazines, a book publisher. He invented the modern media conglomerate. Before Murdoch you were in the television business, or movie business, or publishing business. After Murdoch there was only the undifferentiated media business.
Sixties: Fox News Begins Murdoch keeps it going strong. In 1994 he makes what Michael Wolff calls the first investment by a major media company in the Internet, which bombs horribly. He buys the New York Post back in 1994. He divorces his second wife Anna in 1999 after 31 years of marriage. Three weeks later he marries Wendi Deng, a 32 year old News Corp executive. Fox News is launched in 1996.
Seventies: Wall Street Journal, The Daily Fox News is a dominant force--if not the most dominant force in American media. Murdoch purchases The Wall Street Journal in 2007 after a dogged pursuit. He starts The Daily in 2010, becoming the first major media owner to work closely with Apple, according to former New York Daily News Editor in Chief, Martin Dunn, in what he calls a "classic case of his [Murdoch's] speed of thought." The Daily may not be receiving many critical accolades, Dunn says, "but don't think that it also isn't fun for Murdoch to wave at his rivals in the rear view mirror." He continues:
New York media heavyweights gathering for their power breakfast these days at Michael's – the midtown see-and-be-seen restaurant – are greeted not only with copies of the Wall Street Journal, but with a tableful of iPads displaying the Daily to read over coffee.
Eighties: The King Lear Chapter? Here's what Michael Wolff has to say:
Entering his ninth decade, with Fox News, with the Wall Street Journal, with his vast holdings in the entertainment business, and with his newfound eminence as a digital prognosticator and force (although he does not use a computer), he seems more powerful than ever. But, alas, he is 80. It is another new chapter. It is destined to be a Shakespearian one. How could it not be? His executives wait. His children circle.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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