A Winning Streak - Part 2
In 1951 Sir Keith, worried that his son was having too good a time and that his leftist politics had become too extreme, wanted to drag him back to Australia to work on his newspapers. Elisabeth intervened but warned her son that this was his last chance. a year later, as Rupert's whimsical idyll at Oxford was coming to an end, he showed signs of becoming his father's son. In the European autumn he attended the British Labour party's annual congress in the dowdy seaside town of Blackpool. He wrote a long letter to his father about the weekend. Dame Elisabeth remembers the day the letter arrived. 'We hadn't heard from his for a little while ... I remember it was a Thursday morning and ... I remember Keith saying, "Well thank god, I think the boy's got it." 'The letter no longer exists, but at last the prodigal son had impressed his father. Two days later sir Keith Murdoch died in his sleep. He was sixty-seven. Dame Elisabeth was comforted in the knowledge that her husband's last days had been spent in a renewed hope for his son's dynastic future.
The family was in deep mourning. For the forty-three-year-old widow it was a 'terrible loss'. Rupert didn't attend his father's funeral; the journey from Britain to Australia took three days, and Elisabeth insisted her husband be buried two days after his death. Throughout the ordeal the young widow drew on her inner steeliness. Elisabeth would never marry again, devoted to the memory of her husband. But the tragedy bore rich dynastic fruit. Rupert, says his mother, once forced to assume the Murdoch mantle at the age of twenty-one, was able to develop in a way never possible under the shadow of his father. 'It was a terrible thing for Rupert ... I think the challenge that Rupert was under at that early age was terrific and ... in overcoming that, he grew tremendously.' In other words her cheeky son buckled down and now followed the path his father had set. In his will Sir Keith expressed his ambitions for his heir: 'I desire that my said son Rupert Murdoch should have a great opportunity of spending a useful, altruistic and full life in newspapers and broadcasting activities and of ultimately occupying a position of high responsibility in that field ...' Still not entirely confident his son would be prudent, Sir Keith added '... with the support of my trustees if they consider him worthy of that support'.
At the time of his death, Sir Keith Murdoch owned a country and a city residence, two cattle properties and substantial shares in two newspaper groups, Queensland Newspapers in Brisbane and, in Adelaide, News Limited. all his assets were held in the family company, Cruden Investments. Dame Elisabeth took charge of the Murdoch finances. Her son was dismayed as his mother settled sir Keith's debts cautiously and conservatively. Elizabeth had grown up with financial insecurity and refused to b e swayed by here son's protestations that the family business could carry debt. With advice from Harry giddy, the chairman of the trustees, who was also chairman of the HWT group, she sold a large share in Brisbane's Courier-Mail to the HWT group to cover outstanding debts and probate costs. Rupert tried to retain the Courier-Mail by attempting to broker his first deal with the Argus in Melbourne and the News. But his business associates weren't prepared to trust the vision of an impulsive twenty-one-year-old undergraduate, no matter who he was. Sir Keith's children were then left with roughly a 50 per cent stake in News Limited between them. It was now the responsibility of the son to build the family company with the family inheritance. He took to the task with relish. a year later, after leaving Oxford with third class honours in politics and economics, Rupert became a director of the str4uggling Adelaide News. Unlike his academic studies, Rupert approached business with rigor. He moved to Adelaide to oversee operations. His father's friend Rohan Rivett was editor-in-chief at the News and they worked together to transform the paper. Naturally enough Rupert adopted the tabloid techniques taught to him by his father.
The News was the number two paper in this small city - a position Murdoch was determined to improve. It was out-circulated by the Adelaide Advertiser, backed by the HWT group. Only months after sir Keith's death, the Advertiser moved to take over the flagging News. In a letter to Elisabeth they offered to buy the paper for 1500,000 pounds. Rupert took up the challenge. He published the letter in the front page of the News with the headline 'Bid for Press Monopoly'. For Rupert, this et the tone for how he would always portray himself: the outsider taking on the powerful establishment. The News headline was snappy and eye-catching - standard fare for the paper that became a recipe of sex, scandal, human interest and sport.
It disconcerted conservative Adelaide and circulation of the News soared. The softly spoken Rupert was in the thick of it. all boundless energy, sleeves rolled up, wreathed in cigarette smoke, he would oversee every state of the paper's daily production, regularly subbing major stories and writing the sledgehammer headlines himself. He cut costs whittling staff to a minimum; senior reporters were asked to write up to twenty stories a day. The money poured in. Setting his sights on becoming a national player, Rupert determined to make the big jump from Adelaide to Sydney. And there would have to be other changes - among them dumping family friend Rohan Rivett. He, Murdoch believed, was 'too crusading a journalist' and his fiscal skills could no longer e relied on. For the ruthless boy publisher with something to prove, there was little room for sentiment.
More than half a century has passed since Rupert Murdock inherited the Adelaide News. He is now CEO of arguably the most powerful media corporation in the world - a man bill gates has referred to as the world's most powerful media player, and who CNN creator Ted Turner had likened to Hitler. He is the William Randolph Hearst of the twenty-first century. Over the years Rupert Murdoch has stamped his populist template on his ventures worldwide. To his critics, the King of News corporation desecrates all the touches; to his supporters, including his family - and to himself - Rupert is a risk-taking innovator and a welcome agent for change. He is proud of all he has achieved and regards News Corporation as a reflection of himself, created in his image: a powerful entrepreneurial and iconoclastic empire. From his small Adelaide launch pad, Rupert has rocketed around the globe - first by seeking out papers ion Australia's major centres, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. From Canberra he launched Australia's first national newspaper, the Australian, in 1964. He said at the time he wanted to create a paper his father would be proud of. By the mid-1960s Australia was too small for Rupert's ambitions and he turned to his father's old stomping ground, fleet Street. In 1969 he snapped up the News of the World and a year later a floundering union paper, the Sun. He transformed both into salacious rags with an emphasis on crime, sex, sport and bold conservative editorials. The Sun 's topless page three girls provided an extra boon to its circulation. It was a revolution led by bare breasts, and the British establishment reviled him as 'the Dirty digger'.
Dame Elizabeth Murdoch laughingly remembers that when Rupert bought the News of the World, it nearly 'killed me'. She raised her concerns at the time, in her direct way. Her son justified the content to his mother along the lines that 'there are tens of thousands of people living in London and around England who have nothing in their lives practically, and they want this sort of thing.' He was right: the punters loved it and the Sun was a cash cow for Rupert's next ventures. He entered the American market in 1973 with the purchase of two Texas dailies, and in 1976 he snapped up his favourite newspaper prize, the new York Post. It was a bastion of liberalism when Murdoch bought it.
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He transformed it into the Big Apple's most conservative (and often most humorous) sex and scandal daily. Rupert now had a voice and a home in the heart of the capitalist world. By the 1980s he was on a roll, his deal-making in full flight. His ideological heroes in government were Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom and Ronald Reagan in the United States. Rupert, a professed meritocrat and a radical free-marketeer, found much in common with Thatcher and Reagan. he embraced the social agenda of America's Christian right, together with hard-line views on a vari4ty of issues from drugs to defence.
In this entrepreneurial climate Rupert made extraordinary advances. He also moved into the British broadsheet market with the acquisitions of The Times and The Sunday times in 1981. In 1985 he ventured into film when he bought a 50 per cent share in Twentieth Century-Fox. Hot on the heels of that deal he bought six metropolitan television stations and started up America's fourth television network, fox Broadcasting. In the United Kingdom he transformed the British television industry with the creation of sky, later to become BSkyB. Back in Australia he had a sentimental win when he managed to secure the Herald and Weekly times Group in 1987, a takeover that would have greatly pleased his father. Rupert's biggest fight of the decade came in 1986 when, determined to increase productivity and profit, he set out to destroy the fleet Street print unions. Und3r strict secrecy he organised for new high-tech newspaper headquarters to be created. Over several months a bleak building at Wapping was covertly filled with the latest in computer technology, rendering the notoriously obstreporous Fleet Street printers redundant. It was a year before Murdoch could claim absolute victory against the print unions - a war in which thousands would angrily protest outside Wapping. Many in the United Kingdom still can't forgive the 'The Best of Wapping' for his ruthlessly sneaky actions. Murdoch shrugs off any criticism as inevitable: 'You can't be an outsider and but through and be successful without leaving a fair among of scar tissue around the place ... I think that is the price one pays.'
Wapping was a triumph for Murdoch. The 'game theory' learnt at Oxford had yet again proved a dramatic success. By the 1990s his sighs turned to Asia. He bought the Hong Kong-based television station Star in 1993. This expensive and risky purchase was even a surprise to News corporation directors. One, Gus Fischer, was flabbergasted when his boss rang to say he had just spent $600 million to purchase a 64 per cent holding of Star. Rupert asked Fischer to inform the other News corporation directors of the Star deal. Rupert Murdoch also entered the United States' cable industry by creating the FX entertainment network. He then made moves into the world of sport, building up his Fox Sports network with a vast selection of local football, baseball, basketball and hockey. He saw the lucrative potential of owning sporting teams and so made a winning bid for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
By now News Corporation was one of the major generators of television product in the world. It, and hence Murdoch, has a controlling interest in television stations in Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australia. Despite Rupert believing his father taught him that media ownership carried wit it 'moral obligation', it can be argued that this obligation has never been much in evidence. During the 1980s, while the size of the corporation dramatically increased, its content remained steady. Rupert Murdoch kept with the tried and trusty formula of sport, sex and gossip to drive his expansion. Many were unimpressed, including his former Geelong headmaster Sir James Darling. commenting on Rupert's career he quoted from the Australian novel, Lucinda Brayford by Martin Boyd: 'Sir, your newspapers for two decades have engaged in the degradation of the proper feelings of our people. what is vile they offer to gloating eyes, what is vindictive they applaud. You have done more harm to this country than any of its external enemies... I beg you to leave before my butler throws you down the steps.'
For Murdoch, business expedience always comes before political ideals. The rabidly conservative Sun in the united kingdom has twice championed Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair during election campaigns - in both cases when landslide for Labour was on the cards. During the 1980s, Murdoch papers were passionate cold War warriors against the Soviet Union, which they referred to as the 'evil empire'. Yet5 in the 1990s, as business interests put china in his sights, Rupert softened his official line towards the communist regime in Beijing. If he wanted to do business in China he had to tread carefully. After a 1993 speech in which Rupert proclaimed that technology had become an 'unambiguous threat to totalitarian regimes everywhere', the Chinese government placed a ban on satellite dishes - a move that stymied Star's potential reach. Since then Murdoch has gone to various lengths to please Chinese authorities. an early move was to drop the BBC from the satellite broadcast - the Chinese government had been hostile to the BBC since it criticised the Tianamen Square massacre. Murdoch prevented his publishing company HarperCollins from publishing the memories of the last governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten. He has condoned the Chinese occupation of Tibet and dismissed the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, as a 'political old monk shuffling in Gucci shoes'. Of all the Murdoch companies, the Hong Kong-based Star has been the most difficult to grow and has yet to reap substantial profits. However, in the main his astute gambles have paid huge dividends.
There has been an overarching and voracious logic to his frequent buying sprees involving television stations, film companies, newspapers, cable technology and professional sports teams. Murdoch wants News corporation not only to transmit the news and entertainment but also to control its production (sport, films and television shows) and the forms of transmission (cable and satellite technology). Murdoch controls the flow iof information and entertainment on a scale unprecedented in history. News Corporation is a public company; however, with the Murdochs turning owning 30 per cent of the shares, Rupert can run it as a family enterprise with himself securely at the apex. His children refer to News corporation affectionately as 'a family business'; its shareholders are content with this as long as Rupert remains at the helm. While politicians, business leaders and royals the world over try to carry favour with Murdoch, he continues to portray himself as an anti-establishment maverick. Sir Keith impressed on his son the need to be above obligation, beholden to no one. In 1999 Rupert commented that 'I try to maintain a position as an outsider to the establishment ... I try to influence events and take part in events, but I think you must try and keep a distance from people with special interests, whether they be in business or government.' Like his grandfather Rupert Greene, Murdoch has had a yearning for a punt, a risk, a flutter. He hs built the world's most powerful media empire through a series of radical gambles; his adult life a race from one adventurous deal to the next. However, despite the risk-taking, he has only once faced ruin,. In 1990, seventy-six years after Rupert Green's passion for gambling nearly brought him down, his grandson faced a similar fate. such a fall would have had widespread consequences, and not just for his own family. Moneylenders feared the downfall of News corporation could send the international share market into a tumble.
For nearly four decades News corporation had expanded relentlessly. But its massive build-up also made the company vulnerable; Rupert's global vision had brought over $10 billion worth of debt to the corporation. As 1990 drew to a close, he and his bankers faced the task of rescheduling more than $7 billion of this debt. To complicate matters, this debt was spread across no fewer than 146 banks. Until this point, Rupert Murdoch had looked invincible. News corporation was his creation, forged in his image. But Rupert had to juggle objectives that were often in conflict: on the one hand, his passion to expand through the making of deals, and on the other his determination to retain the company as his fiefdom - a company that would stay in family hands. Public companies worth billions of dollars don't often operate like the nepotistic courts of absolute monarchs, however, with his significant dominance of the company's shares, Rupert Murdoch had managed just this. To finance his deals, Rupert had borrowed heavily rather than sell family shares. Then in 1990 the international lending market dried up. He found fewer and fewer banks would lend on the short-term money market. To add fuel to the fire, none of his cash cows - not even his British Sun tabloid - could come close to covering a fraction of the costs of his latest expensive entrepreneurial move - his venture into the emerging United Kingdom pay television industry. News corporation's share price plummeted. for the first time in his career Rupert was in peril of defaulting one scheduled loans.
As Christmas 1990 approached, News corporation was scheduled to replay a billion-dollar loan. The company couldn't meet the 7 December payment deadline. Unless all the creditors agreed to reschedule their loans, News corporation faced liquidation. However, like his grandfather, Rupert had friends with influence who were ready to come to his rescue. He employed a network of Citibank executives to work night and day to sort out the financial tangle. They had marshalled the banks to reschedule News corporation's debt. There was just one bank, the Pittsburgh National, refusing to be brought into line. This small lender was owed $100 million - just one per cent of the total loan. The Pittsburgh loan officer refused to reschedule the debt, saying he was prepared to see News corporation go under Rupert Murdoch made a personal call to the loan officer, but Pittsburgh wouldn't take the call. Hours before the loan deadline was reached, Citibank's chairman made a call to the chairman of Pittsburgh National, warning him that if the latter bank refused to reschedule the debt, the company would go under. And if News corporation was under, he predicted the stock markets would go into freefall and the world would face a grim recession. when this nightmarish flow-on effect was outline to the Pittsburgh chairman he predictably relented. Rupert Murdoch was in the clear. A slight variation of this story comes via Philip Townsend who was the Murdochs' butler in London for five years. According to his version of events, on 6 December 1990 Rupert made a call from his London triplex to the white House. Within moments he was speaking to President George bush (snr), telling the President the story of his tussle with the Pittsburgh National Bank. He emphasised to President Bush that without Pittsburgh National coming on board, everything would fall over. According to Townsend, Rupert finally asked, 'Can you help?' within the hour of his phone call to the president, the Pittsburgh bank called Rupert Murdoch, agreeing to reschedule the loan. a relieved Rupert got off the phone and uttered, 'Phew, that was a close one.'
While Rupert was pursuing risky business deals, his wife Anna was raising their three children and her stepdaughter Prudence - Rupert's daughter by his first marriage of ten years to Patricia Booker. Anna and Rupert met when she was a junior reporter at the Daily Mirror and went to interview her boss, Rupert. The thirty-six-year-old media entrepreneur and the enterprising twenty-two-year-old married in a quiet suburban Sydney church in 1967. Elisabeth, Lachlan and James are the children of this marriage. for three decades Anna was the dutiful wife and charming hostess, taking care of the children and managing the seven family mansions, including the home in Aspen Colorado which has a swimming pool in the living room. She was his staunches defender, unceasingly supporting him in his global ambitions. Their family was a tight and loving unit. Rupert once commented to journalists, 'We're a close family, and I think that reflects in our papers ... We really value the idea of family ties.' The devoted Anna would sometimes rouse her sleepy children so they cold have a pre-dawn breakfast with their father before he jetted off. she was even known to raise her slumbering offspring so that they could greet their father as he walked through the door at 5.30 am. at home and at work, Rupert was king. He was also often absent, his global interests and relentless business deals keeping him away for long periods. even when he was at home, his children would complain that he wasn't listening to them. If his children wanted their father's attention they needed to enter his orbit and talk media and politics.
The eldest son, Lachlan, was born in London in 1971. His parents, despising the stuffiness of London, fled to the Unite States in 1974. For Lachlan, his childhood in the United States evokes strong and fond memories. he remembers the grand dining room at their New York home. dinners were often formal and oddly old-fashioned, given their father's pride in his nonconformity. 'We always had staff serving us. My father would come home; we'd have to get dressed up to see him. we would have half an hour with him alone before the guests came over.' The dinner guests were a mixture of politicians, newspaper editors, authors and business leaders. The children revelled in the atmosphere of those dinner, the lively conversations over good food and expensive wines. 'they would listen attentively. when the governor of new York came over, the sleepy children would stare agog as they trotted up to bed past security guards stationed on the stairs. The unobtrusive and rather quiet young Lachlan enjoyed the debates and discussions round the family dining table. He says that even now, if the family goes out for dinner and conversation is waning, one member of the clan will look to take a position against another Murdoch. 'We don't really believe in it, we just want to cause excitement.'
Prue remembers her father as being an ordinary sort of father, '... whenever tried too hard, you know, he was always behind a newspaper'. When he was playing 'normal' dad, Rupert loved competitive games. According to Elisabeth, family games of Monopoly were highly animated - and everybody was prepared to cheat. Winning was deemed essential. The family would also seek riskier leisure pursuits, skiing and scuba diving together. Even when his children were small Rupert sometimes took them on a daredevil ride. Elisabeth recalls as a seven-year-old having onto a plastic sleigh while her father pulled her and her younger brothers along behind his snowmobile. 'I remember his going like a bit out hell basically, across the ice and lake and up the bank with me on the back having the time of my life but being absolutely terrified out of my wits.' Rupert involved his children in the workings of the media from a tender age. Over the years they have absorbed the family's raison d'etre. If their father was in town, breakfast would be spent talking of the family business. Recalls Lachlan: 'Lis, James and I would come up for breakfast before we had to get the bus to school and all the papers would come out and we'd have the New York Post, the New York T'imes, the Daily News and the Wall Street Journal, and as we read the papers my dad would be handing out the stories and saying, "Read that" or he'd say, "Look at the headline - that's a shocking headline" ... that often led (to) what he was doing that day and things that he was involved with that might have been in the papers. So from a very early age - I'm talking now seven or eight years old - we began to understand that we were part of the media business.'
When it came to his children's education, Rupert flung his anti-elite rhetoric out the door after he tried sending eldest daughter Prudence to a London comprehensive. The child, used to a certain level of cosseting, was withdrawn after one term and sent to an establishment private girls' school headed by a baroness. Lachlan and James went to exclusive boys' schools in Manhattan' Elisabeth to an elite girls' school. James and his sister Elizabeth were the most rebellious, although they couldn't quite match their father's schoolboy insouciance. James, sporting dyed blond hair, and earrings, argued with his teachers' Elisabeth was expelled from her girls' day school in Manhattan for smuggling rum into the grounds. Lachlan, on the other hand, formed club for young conservatives. Rupert's eldest son is wary of being seen as privileged. Perhaps because he mixed with children from other enormously wealthy and powerful families, although rarely as rich as his own, Lachlan portrays the Murdochs as an ordinary family though 'perhaps in extraordinary circumstances'. He talks of the grimy hustle and bustle of New York as a grounding experience: everything happened on street level, people caught buses and cabs, no one drove fancy cars. Childhood friends remember the Murdoch children travelling by bus to school, and Elisabeth in particular running out of money and having to borrow a few dimes. In describing family life as 'ordinary', Rupert's children continue a family propensity - public denial of their exceptional power and status. The Murdoch children are smart; they understood that their father had an unusually prominent place in the word. As a six-year-old, Lachlan Murdoch saw a front cover of time magazine'... that had my father as King Kong on top of the World Trade Center with little planes trying to shoot him down'. No one else's dad, he realised, was publicly portrayed as a 'monster'.
To get attention from 'dear old Pop Rupert's kids had to engage with the business. during school holidays they were encouraged to take summer jobs in News Corporation. with the exception of the laid-back and jovial Prue, they grabbed the opportunity. Rupert made it clear that they were expected to work hard and be persistent. The children grew up with their father's Presbyterian work ethic, and to gain his approval have had to show utter dedication. According to Lachlan, 'there's no sense of turning business on and off, so News Corporation business is my life as it is my father's and brother's and the whole family - you'll wake up in the middle of the night and you'll be working ... every lunch, dinner and even your friends that you make are somehow connected to your work ... I hope it's healthy because it's the only thing I've ever known.' The children hope that their dedication will pay off and eventually one child will succeed their father. hard work is a prerequisite to gaining Rupert's praise, but to him the bloodline is paramount. His children's involvement brings 'experience and tradition' to News, says their proud father. 'I think it would lose a lot if it was just another public company, run by a board with the approval of fund managers.' Being part of this family means being part of the enterprise that gives the family its identity. Rupert offers his children heaven on earth, so it's not surprising that they venerate their godlike father. James Murdoch says of being his father's son: 'I hope there are more similarities than differences.' Rupert holds their future in his hands and they worship him.
Rupert Murdoch's own dynastic leanings only became clearly evident in the 1990s. It was in this decade, as his sons reached adulthood, that Rupert bought out his sisters' news corporation shares for a total price of around $A650 million and thus concentrated ownership within his immediate family. His sisters and their children have benefited greatly from Rupert's business prowess. Today only Rupert's branch of the family retains ownership of the family company his father started in 1947k, Cruden Investments - News Corporation 's primary shareholder. As he shored up the dynastic fortune Rupert fast-tracked his children, particularly his sons Lachlan and James, through the company hierarchy. Both prince regents now anticipate that their bloodline, coupled with hard work and perseverance, will take them, to the top. Many non-Murdoch managers have left the company, frustrated because they will never be able to have a crack at the top job. for a man who has spent years railing against the establishment, Rupert Murdoch has contrived a fresh nepotistic elite. As ex-employee Andrew Neil puts it, Rupert has produced 'a new media aristocracy'. Lachlan's first job was back in Australia, working as a jackaroo on one of News Corporation's properties. his next summer job was cleaning the printing presses, helping to print the now defunct Sydney tabloid the Daily Mirror. By the time he was seventeen, the boss's son found himself back in the united Kingdom, subediting the sun. Lachlan says these summer jobs 'helped me in understanding the business from an early age. I understand that I'm not the best subeditor in the world, but I can certainly appreciate good subediting ... so those are very important jobs in the business.' His younger brother enjoyed a similar entree into the Murdoch empire, James's first work experience was a photographer's assistant at the HWT group. The heir had an inauspicious start when he fell asleep during the press conference announcing Kerry Stokes's purchase of Channel Seven. Unlike his more relaxed brother., the mercurial and spiky James found these summer jobs difficult. 'I can't complain, but when you're working in the company and you're fifteen and you have a job whether they have a job for you or not, it's very difficult. People are touchy about yelling at you if you fuck up.
In 1994 the tough-talking scion even dropped out of Harvard to form his own music company, Rawkus. But the lure of working in the family company soon brought him back. By 1995 twenty-two-year-old James was made head of news Corporation's music and new media ventures. He was dispatched to Sydney to improve the performance of music label Festival. In true Murdoch style he restructured the company, sacking staff all the way through from management to tea ladies. Festival employees went on strike, calling him 'Son of the Beast of Wapping'. Since then James has enjoyed a meteoric rise, becoming executive chairman of Star TV in Hong Kong in 2000. He's touted to be the smartest of the children, described by his mother Anna as more of a renaissance person than his brother or sister. 'He finds space in his life for quite a lot of interest and is very knowledgeable about them ... He has his father's powers of memory and intellect.' Like his great-grandfather Rupert Greene, James likes to gamble - sometimes betting thousands of dollars at the gaming tables. But unlike Pop Greene, James knows when to stop. It is a lesson he has probably learned from Rupert who has said: 'When it is going well, we'll push it. And when it is going bad, let's go home. So you shouldn't limit what you think you could win, but you must limit what you lose.'
Lachlan has been the most predictable, steadily following the path laid out for him. at university the tanned and disarmingly polite Lachlan was an average student, spending a great deal of time rock-climbing. he says that at the time he was considering pursing rock-climbing more seriously, but after reading a biography of his grandfather, Lachlan was impressed by Sir Keith's achievements and wanted to be part of the next generation, upholding his grandfather's legacy. In 1994 after graduating from Princeton, Lachlan made the most of being a member of this elite family. Rupert sent him to work in news corporation 's Australian division, News Limited. After just a year subediting on the Courier-Mail, the twenty0five-eyar-old was promoted to second-in-command of News Limited - whose papers reach 70 per cent of the Australian market. Displaying the great confidence that comes from growing up a business heir, Lachlan immediately initiated an editorial overhaul. One of the first papers to he remodelled by the young dynast was the Australian, the national daily his father created in 1964. Lachlan sought a younger readership, giving short shrift to lengthy or obscure articles. Senior staff left - some pushed, others jumping. Management were in no doubt that behind Lachlan's gallant demeanour was a man with sharply honed business instincts. Dame Elisabeth describes her grandson as 'caring and unspoilt'. Business associates characterise him as like his father, politically conservative and at times ruthless. In 1996 he was placed in charge of News Limited after Rupert's loyal lieutenant Ken Cowley retired early. News Limited insiders claim Cowley was frustrated at increasingly finding himself out of the loop, with Rupert speaking more to his son than to him. .
That same year Lachlan was named heir apparent of the parent company, news Corporation, but more recently the anointing oil has been wiped from his brow. Rupert has claimed Peter Chernin, currently chief operating officer, as his likely successor. Lachlan was appointed Deputy Chief Operating Officer of News Corporation in November 2000, making him the third-most powerful executive in this multibillion-dollar empire. But his performance has had several shaky moments. In 2001 news Corporation lost $532 million as telephone company One Tel failed. with the collapse of One Tel, the Australian press, at least the non-News corporation outlets, looked to place some of the blame squarely with Lachlan. After all, he had spearheaded News corporation's multimillion-dollar investment and was a director on One Tel's board. But Rupert doesn't blame his son, saying, 'It was a corporate decision. We were all involved in the decision, it was not Lachlan's decision or his deal. And it was a great embarrassment to all of us, and certainly to us as the two biggest investors, the Packers (James and Kerry Packer) and ourselves.'
Unlike other executive who can expect a 'bullocking' when they mess up, Rupert Murdoch is positively sanguine when speaking about his children's errors. In an interview in his commodious Los Angeles office in August 2001 he said, 'Mistakes have been made by them and there have been very very few, but they've been the first to come in and discuss them. There are many more mistakes made by me every day than by them collectively.' His flexible attitude has given his children a particular confidence. Elisabeth says her father has fostered in them a sense of bravery and acceptance that it is 'okay to make mistakes' as long as 'you work hard and think laterally'. In the fifty years since he inherited his father's dream, Rupert has been served by many loyal retainers, but most senior lieutenants eventually leave. In News Corporation, only Rupert holds the company's corporate memory and has sworn in as many words that he won't be leaving the company until he's taken out in a wooden box. Rupert is regarded as an exacting boss with a unpredictable temper, his charming demeanour suddenly giving way to a vicious tongue-lashing. Former employee andr3ew Neil sees his ex-boss as a hopeless manager who can strike fear into the hearts of his vast team. 'He rules over great distances, through authority, loyalty, example and fear. he can be benign or ruthless, depending on his mood or the requirements of his empire. You never know which; the element of surprise is part of the means by which he makes his presence felt in every corner of his domain.' the only people who can't be sacked and don't experience the vitriol are his children.
To date, Rupert has ensured Lachlan and James a smooth run through the company, but Elizabeth's path has been bumpier. Despite being (like her father) resolute and energetic, the well groomed and beautiful Elisabeth hasn't been promoted by her patriarchal father in the same vigorous manner as his sons. Rupert is known for his unease with female executives and his old-style chauvinism has slowed her pace through the company. He has ruefully admitted that his daughter is, like him, 'a bull at a gate' but he's been uneasy about giving her the same succession rights as her brothers. Elisabeth's husband, public relations supremo Matthew Freud, ahs said of his father-in-law, 'misogyny is too strong, but Rupert has an old-fashioned attitude (towards women)'. Still, he has given her advantages that most women could only dream of. In 1995 Rupert lent his twenty-six-year-old daughter several million dollars to buy two Californian television stations. he recalls saying: 'Get out of the (family) company and you'll come back with better credentials. I thought she'd been gone for four or five years. she was back after twelve months with a $10 million profit. You can't argue with that.' In her bid to please her father, Elisabeth restructured the Californian television companies. Through massive job cuts, she earned a reputation as a slash-and-burn entrepreneur. After one year she sold the companies and rejoined News Corporation. Like her brother Lachlan, Elisabeth is renowned for working long hours and displaying a ferocious edge. She wants to be judged on her merits, irrespective of the advantage that underpins them. However, Elisabeth knows it's her bloodline more than her skills that placed her in the position of senior executive at the British satellite station BSkyB when only in her twenties.
Australia - Dynasties - Murdochs - Part 3
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