Rupert Murdoch Will Fight AnyoneS

Last week our own John Cook compared Murdoch to King Lear. New York Magazine's big feature on the man and his dynasty, out today, can't resist the same metaphor to describe the infighting, empire-building and war-mongering at News Corp.

The profile, by Gabriel Sherman, gives a nice sense of the character and attitude that drives Rupert and Co to do ostensibly dumb things like buy the Wall Street Journal and pick fights with Google and the New York Times. Also, no-one really likes Fox News.

  • The takeaway seems to be that Murdoch takes things personally. His animosity towards the gray lady, says Sherman, is driven by a dislike of the perceived arrogance and ineptitude of publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. He also believes that "Sulzberger is a poor businessman who has mismanaged his company's fortunes and deserves to lose.
  • Both Murdoch and Robert Thomson, editor of the WSJ, believe that most journalists are "liberals overly concerned with writing stories that will impress other liberal journalists and win prizes in journalism competitions."
  • The Journal's eight-to-sixteen page New York section, a direct competitor to the Times coverage, will launch next month. Dubbed 'project Amsterdam' internally, it cost $15m to put together and its desks are located near Thomsons office. It's part, say many insiders, of Murdoch's irrational and deep-pocketed belief in the value of print journalism.
  • Murdoch's simultaneous battle against Google is codenamed "Project Alesia, named after Julius Caesar's victorious siege of the Gallic forces in 52 B.C." Insiders say he just doesn't get the "wild west" of the digital world — that it's too fluid for him to understand.
  • Of Murdoch's kids, James has positioned himself best to take over from his father. But Rupert refuses to name a successor and took former golden child Lachlan on a sailing trip with Roger Ailes recently. And daughter Elisabeth is still in the running too. David Yelland, former editor of The Sun, tells Sherman that "those of us who care for Rupert, and I do very much, hope we don't get the fifth act of King Lear."
  • The story ends with an interview with Murdoch's 101-year-old mother, Dame Elisabeth. Which, frankly, is somewhat dubious. (Interviewing the very elderly must fall into the same category as interviewing children or the mentally disabled, no matter how "sharp," they are.) She's not sure about the succession either. But then how much do you tell your mother about what goes on at work?