By the mid-1980s, however, Murdoch's interest in the USA shifted to electronic media. He became a U.S. citizen — a prerequisite to buying TV stations — and sold some properties, including New York and the Voice. He then borrowed heavily from banks, as well as through sales of junk bonds, to launch a massive acquisition spree.
He created Fox Broadcasting after buying the 20th Century Fox studio and Metromedia's TV stations. Shortly afterward, he picked up the owner of TV Guide, using the magazine to help legitimize his fledgling network.
And he developed a passion for satellite broadcasting, first with a U.K. system and later in Asia.
But he also got overextended. In 1990 he couldn't make a payment on his bank loans and needed funds to keep his operations going. Wall Street, however, showed little interest in bailing out what it saw as a maddeningly complicated company that let him make huge bets on a whim.
"His historical blind spot is that he is not always thinking for shareholders," Dixon says. "That has made it difficult for him to access capital."
Murdoch averted bankruptcy when his banks restructured his debt and fronted extra cash. He soon began to mend fences with The Street.
As an owner of U.S.-regulated electronic media, Murdoch has lobbied federal officials to bend limits on media ownership. He has argued that he is an underdog in most of his markets, and needs help to promote competition.
By the mid-1990s Murdoch was ready to grow again — and stirred up more controversy.
Supporters of democracy in China blasted Murdoch when he bought a struggling Hong Kong-based satellite broadcasting service and it then dropped the BBC. It gave the appearance of a campaign to win favor with the Chinese government. Murdoch has denied any linkage.
Continuing feud with Ted Turner
His pugnacious side was more evident with the launch of Fox News. The news channel also reignited a long-running feud between Murdoch and CNN founder Ted Turner. The New York Post frequently mocked Turner. Time Warner, which had bought Turner's company, refused to carry Fox News, as did other cable operators.
That led Murdoch to cut a deal with EchoStar with the goal of creating a U.S. satellite powerhouse that could threaten cable. He backed out of the plan, though, after Time Warner and other cable operators agreed to carry his new channel.
In 2003, the News Corp. chief finally satisfied his lust for a U.S. satellite broadcaster by buying control of DirecTV. But his ardor for the business here soon cooled, and last year he agreed to sell the stake to Liberty Media's John Malone for the News Corp. shares that made Malone a threat.
News Corp. turned its attention to the Web, notably snapping up social networking site MySpace — a major success, even though some analysts initially said that Murdoch had overpaid.
"He's able to assess the potential (of a business opportunity) and take advantage of it faster than anybody else," Chenoweth says. "He's the fastest swimmer in the pool."