If it wasn't inevitable from the get-go that Rupert Murdoch would, via tentacles that touch every distribution channel and medium, obtain an advance copy of Michael Wolff's biography of him, it certainly became so when the book landed in the hands of the News Corporation chairman's son-in-law Matthew Freud. Freud got it from a London newspaper negotiating serialization rights, Murdoch got it from Freud, and Wolff soon heard from Murdoch, the Times reported this morning: "[The book] contains some extremely damaging misstatements of fact," he emailed, thus playing into Wolff's hands, as he seems to have done from the beginning.
Wolff said he was repeatedly asked by Murdoch associates why the mogul was cooperating with his biography. The Times hints at the answer: Murdoch was positively giddy after acquiring his long-sought prize the Wall Street Journal last year. Wolff perhaps sensed that this flush of pride provided him an opening and promptly seized it, asking for and receiving access to the mogul, his family and his inner circle.
And now Murdoch has given him a second opening. Having talked at great length for Wolff and his tape recorder, he can't very well sue publisher Random House. And yet by feinting in this direction the media lord has provided Wolff a way to air in the Times those bits of information Murdoch most wanted to suppress — that News Corp. number two Peter Chernin may not read newspapers, that Murdoch is embarrassed by Fox News chief Roger Ailes— while promoting Wolff's book in the same stroke.
This perhaps explains why Murdoch's spokesman praised to the Times Wolff's book. Murdoch is belatedly trying to contain the controversy before it helps Wolff any further:
“The book conveys Rupert, the family and the company in a flattering light. And certainly portrays Rupert as the risk-taking entrepreneur that he is.”
That's the thing about risks: They do sometimes go pear-shaped.