Rupert Murdoch: Ultimate Media Mogul?

Murdoch is eyeing adding Yahoo to his ever-growing media empire.

January 08, 2009, 12:26 AM

April 15, 2008&#151; -- Every few weeks, it seems that Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp. make headlines as Murdoch maneuvers to expand his ever-growing media empire.

His latest attempt: Murdoch wants a piece of online giant Yahoo.

The 77-year-old Australian-born media mogul already controls a surprising amount of what we see on a daily basis. Nobody knows the true extent of his ambitions, but Murdoch watchers say he doesn't appear to be stopping any time soon.

"He does seem to be buying everything in the world," said Tony Hendra, a satirist and former editor of the National Lampoon.

Hendra just published a satire paper called My Wall Street Journal which includes the line "We Distort. You Decide" on its masthead, after Fox News' tagline, "We Report. You Decide." Murdoch's News Corp. recently purchased Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal and Barrons.

Hendra's spoof pokes fun at a lot of people's fears about Murdoch's intentions and methods.

For instance, a news brief on the fake front page reads: "Big bouncy naked girl boobs increase readership when published in newspapers …"

Another story tackles the tough lives of the super rich, saying that many third homes, the place where you "escape the tedium of a second home" are being foreclosed at an alarming rate.

"I think global press lords could use a little needling every once in a while," Hendra said. "It's a given that he's to have his way with The Wall Street Journal and make it My Wall Street Journal."

On a more serious note, Jerome Tuccille, who works on Wall Street and has written books on Murdoch, Alan Greenspan and Donald Trump, among others, said Murdoch probably won't go after Yahoo, despite his appetite for growth.

"I just think it's too soon after the Dow Jones acquisition," Tuccille said, noting that Murdoch is probably making overtures to keep other bidders away or to buy himself some time.

Murdoch was born in 1931 in Australia and studied at Oxford University in England. He got his start in the news world in 1952 when he inherited two Adelaide, Australia, newspapers from his father. For the next decade, he grew his media business in Australia, launching the country's first national daily in 1964.

He then set his sights overseas, buying the London tabloid News of the World and London's Sun. Murdoch later moved into the U.S. newspaper market and then, in the 1980s, into television and movies.

He now controls a vast media empire: the third-largest media conglomerate in the world, according to business information service Hoover's. It is only surpassed by Time Warner and the Walt Disney Co., the parent company of ABC News.

"I don't think 99 percent of the population realizes that the same company that owns the Wall Street Journal also owns 'American Idol,'" said Chris Roush, a business journalism professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Tuccille said he doesn't see Murdoch slowing down in his acquisition of other companies.

"People like him don't stop; they hit a wall and suddenly drop dead," Tuccille said. "He's incapable of stopping. He's an empire builder."

Tuccille said Murdoch is a "gambler and a risk taker" who has overpaid for properties, but managed to make them work.

He has also acquired many critics along the way.

"He's a real political operative. He really is concerned about getting his point of view out there, across the globe," Tuccille said. "He likes to put his own political stamp on his properties. He turned the New York Post from what some people would say was a left-wing rag into a right-wing rag."

It's that level of editorial direction that worried many late last year as Murdoch moved to buy out Dow Jones.

He's even a frequent target on the popular animated television series "The Simpsons," which airs on his own Fox network.

Probably the sharpest jab came in May 2004, in an episode where the town's eccentric billionaire Mr. Burns decided to buy every media outlet in town to improve his image.

At one point, Burns says, "Well, I guess it's impossible for one man to control all the media. Unless, of course, you're Rupert Murdoch. He is one beautiful man."

Roush said that media companies only have as much influence as we let them have.

Murdoch, he said, has a lot of sway with a certain influential crowd.

"What Murdoch is successful in doing is tapping into the large population — conservatives — that didn't previously have media properties that catered to them. That's what he's figured out," Roush said. "If you own media companies with a certain slant or certain political bent, then you can have more pull or weight with the average person if that average person agrees with that political slant."

In one way or another, most people interact with News Corp. on a weekly — if not daily — basis.

Going to a movie? It might have been produced or distributed by Fox Filmed Entertainment, which includes 20th Century Fox. Reading a book? Publisher HarperCollins is part of Murdoch's empire.

But the reach doesn't end there.

Millions of Americans who tune in each night to see shows like "24," "House" and, of course, "American Idol" are seeing them on Murdoch's Fox network, which has more than 200 affiliate stations across the country.

Fox has deals with Major League Baseball and the National Football League, essentially guaranteeing that any sports fan will, at some point, have to tune into Murdoch's media empire.

There is also the Fox News cable channel — often criticized for taking a right-wing approach to news — and Murdoch's latest TV venture, the Fox Business Channel, which is trying to get a bite of a market dominated by CNBC. News Corp. also owns the FX and National Geographic cable channels.

Murdoch owns major newspapers, including the New York Post and The Times of London, as well as more than 110 newspapers in Australia.

Those looking to interact with friends on the Internet might turn to MySpace, another part of the News Corp. family.

News Corp.'s purchase of Dow Jones sparked a lot of debate about how much power Murdoch has and his personal influence over the editorial content of those publications.

Over the years, Murdoch has also owned parts of the Los Angeles Dodgers, DirecTV, TV Guide and the Chicago Sun-Times.

Murdoch hasn't said anything publicly about succession plans, though it is believed that his sons are in line to take over the company, which has annual sales of more than $24 billion.

So, what's next for the man whose family owns 40 percent of News Corp. and reaches millions of people around the world each day? Nobody knows, but keep watching the headlines for his next move.

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