12 Insane Things You Never Knew About Rupert Murdoch
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.)
He Is One Of The 100 Richest People In The WorldPhoto: Eva Rinaldi / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0
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.
He Owned His First Newspaper At Age 22Photo: DBduo Photography / foter.com / CC BY-SA 2.0
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.
He Gained Success By Breaking Up UnionsPhoto: Nicoatridge / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0
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.
He Invented The Modern TabloidPhoto: Bobbie Johnson / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0
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.
MySpace Was One Of His Biggest FailuresPhoto: Oxfam America / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0
In 2005, Murdoch bought MySpace for $580 million. Despite its early promise, the social networking site could never compete with Facebook; in 2008, the website had over 100 million users, but by 2011, that figure had fallen to 30 million. In the end, Murdoch sold the website to Justin Timberlake and other investors for just $35 million.
A Massive Scandal Damaged His ReputationPhoto: World Economic Forum / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0
Murdoch was forced to close his first British paper, News of the World, in 2011. News broke that reporters and editors at his papers The Sun and News of the World had hacked the voicemails of murder victims' families and political figures, embroiling the media mogul in a scandal that greatly hurt his public image. In meetings that were intended to be private, Murdoch met with the families to apologize for the behavior of his journalists.
Later, tape emerged that showed Murdoch may not have been as contrite in the well-publicized private meetings as he let on. On the recordings, Murdoch commented that the practices his writers used in bribing police officers were common for British media - even though he previously testified to the British Parliament that he had no knowledge of such actions by his employees.