Who is Rupert Murdoch? You might not know his resume, but you definitely know his work. The Australian-born businessman has turned media into a lucrative empire, with holdings all over the world. From The Wall Street Journal to 20th Century Fox, HarperCollins to Fox News, Murdoch has ties to them all.
His biography is the stuff of CEO legend. Murdoch's tremendous power can make or break politicians, frame news narratives at the stroke of a checkbook, and change once-trusted sources of information into founts of sensationalism and tabloid headlines.
(We're not saying he's a supervilain, but he does have supervillain-esque levels of of wealth, power and influence.)
Murdoch has all the standard power that comes along with someone who is rich, white and a man, but the influences he wields with his massive media reach is truly staggering. His media organizations can sway political opinions, elevate certain political figures, and shape news narratives around the globe. And that power comes with a tremendous amount of wealth. According to Forbes, Murdoch is worth about $12 billion, making him the 96th wealthiest individual in the world. To put that in perspective, he's worth more than the annual gross domestic product of Madagascar, a country of 27 million people.
Murdoch's father, Sir Keith Murdoch, owned several newspapers in Australia. He sent his son to Oxford College in England, but young Murdoch had to return to his home country in 1953. His father had died, and the 22-year-old was tasked with running the family business.
Murdoch turned one failing newspaper, The Adelaide News, into a success. He then started The Australian, the first national paper in the country. Fifteen years later, he started what would become an international media conglomerate when he purchased London's News of the World in 1968.
In 1986, talks broke down between newspaper workers and Murdoch, who was seeking to move the printing and editing portions of News International's periodicals to a new facility. The mogul wanted to modernize his printing operations and reduce staff, and asked unions to give up their right to strike and open the shop to non-union workers. Workers went on strike to prevent the move, but their plan backfired - Murdoch fired 6,000 of them.
After a year-long strike, Murdoch had forced the union to spend most of their funding in court battles. The British government and police enforced policies and used violent tactics to break the power of organized labor in the country.
Tabloid newspapers skyrocketed in popularity in the second half of the 20th century, and Murdoch helped bring those papers into the mainstream. As The Economist puts it, "he invented the modern tabloid newspaper - a stew of sexual titillation, moral outrage, and political aggression."
Even Murdoch's more traditional media holdings have the reputation of being less focused on news and more on competing with sports and entertainment media. Outlets like Fox News have become successful by focusing on infotainment to attract viewers.