Media Magnate's Freudian Reminiscences

28 November 2005

Rupert Murdoch, at 74, has seemingly reached that stage in life when he feels the need to reflect on his long march from Adelaide, Australia (where fresh from Oxford University in 1954 he inherited his father's newspaper empire) to his present dominance as a global media magnate and political eminence gris.

He chose an appropriate confessor - Freud.

A séance was not required. Instead of a Ouija-board session with the late Viennese doctor, the magnate opted for the more corporeal presence of Sigmund's great grandson Matthew Freud ... London-based PR guru, co-proprietor of UK business magazine Press Gazette ... and husband to Murdoch's daughter Elisabeth.

The chairman/ceo of News Corporation, it seems, is not satisfied by amassing a personal fortune estimated at $7.8 billion (€6.65bn; £4.55bn). He voiced concern that the British "establishment" has undervalued his contribution to the annals of the Island race.

Murdoch told the Gazette his take-no-prisoners war with UK print unions in 1986 [triggered by his decision to sack print staff overnight and move operations to a then state-of-the-art site in east London] had been an "absolute turning point for ... the whole of the newspaper industry".

"I'm certainly very, very proud of it," he boasted. "And it'll be part of my legacy. It was only twenty years ago, but people are already forgetting it."

He pointed to "three or four major benefits that I've done in Britain". In addition to union-busting, he cites "introducing competition in the popular press" in 1969 with his mammary-laden populist tabloid The Sun; and "dragging The Times newspaper into the modern age" since acquiring it in 1981.

He also referred to the launch in 1989 of his satellite TV company BSkyB, while omitting to mention his ruthless despatch of its sole competitor, British Satellite Broadcasting.

The success of BSkyB, Murdoch claims, "put the whole of the broadcasting establishment against me, and particularly the BBC. They had 240 people in their public affairs department at one stage who did nothing but lobby for legislation against Sky, and were a constant pain."

"Sky is doing very well. It will do a lot better. And as it does, the resentment from the establishment forces will only grow stronger," he predicted of the firm 37%-owned by NewsCorp and run by his son, James.

As to daughter Elisabeth, who quit her executive role at BSkyB in May 2000 to form her own TV production company: is she likely to return to the family business, inquired the Gazette? [An odd question given that she decamped only as far as Sky's doorstep. A major shareholder in her company, Shine Productions, is BSkyB ... which is also its major customer.]

And will senior son Lachlan (33) - who in August of this year abruptly resigned his role as deputy chief operating officer at NewsCorp - return to the fold?

"I don't think I've heard of any heir to a newspaper company who ever wanted to walk away from it," mused the patriarch. "Children of major media people - generally, I wouldn't say universally - want to be part of it."

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff