Happy birthday, Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch

Happy birthday, Rupert Murdoch! Love him, hate him, the old boy is going as strong as ever as he celebrates his 83rd birthday. He certainly sounds feisty as ever on Twitter, tweeting on the New York mayoral election result and the missing Malaysia Airlines plane.

And while the phone hacking scandal drags on with his former protégé Rebekah Brooks still in the dock, Murdoch is raking in the moolah big time. The Murdochs’ net worth is currently estimated at $13.5 billion by Forbes, up from $9.4 billion in September 2012 and $6.3 billion in March 2010.

He has had an eventful year, says Forbes:

Rupert Murdoch had an action-packed 2013 which included two major splits: the breakup of his company and a new divorce. In November, Rupert reached a divorce settlement with Wendi, with whom he was married for 14 years and has two daughters. The couple reportedly had a pre-nuptial agreement and two postnups, which led to Wendi keeping their 5th Avenue apartment; the settlement didn’t affect Murdoch’s ownership of his media companies. The other major split had to do with News Corporation, which was split into two publicly traded entities: 21st Century Fox, which holds mainly TV and film properties, and News Corp, which was left with the newspaper and book publishing units. Both stocks kept pace with the broader U.S. stock market, which had an impressive 2013, helping to boost Murdoch’s net worth by more than $2 billion in the past year.

Yes, Murdoch’s fortune is on the up and up despite divorce No 3 and the split-up of his media empire. Anyway, the corporate split is no skin off his nose. He is the chairman and CEO of 21st Century Fox and executive chairman of News Corp, retaining leadership positions in both.

Murdoch will be inducted into the US Television Academy hall of fame today with Jay Leno, reports the Sydney Morning Herald, adding:

The press release said Murdoch’s creation of Fox ”revolutionised the television landscape with groundbreaking shows such as The Simpsons, The X-Files and American Idol”. He also created the controversial cable news channel Fox News, with the incredibly accurate slogan, ”Fair and balanced”.

It seems nobody can resist a dig at the old boy except his minions, of course, of whom he has plenty.

“Rupert Murdoch has got the whole world in his itchy palms,” wrote James Wolcott in Vanity Fair in 1987 – and that observation still holds, with his media empire stretching from America to Australia.

“Murdoch long ago outplayed the Establishment to become the Establishment. He runs a $ 70 billion company. He’s held more power over more time than any other contemporary figure,” wrote Michael Wolff in another article in Vanity Fair in 2007 after News Corp bought the Wall Street Journal.

Noted Wolff: “Behind the howls of outrage that greeted Rupert Murdoch’s bid for The Wall Street Journal were two assumptions: Murdoch is evil. Murdoch is unstoppable. Yet the man who terrorized a generation of journalists may be the last mogul standing who truly loves print.”

Yes, Murdoch has not given up newspapers for television. He has his fingers in both the pies.

He was spot on when he spoke about the future of newspapers in 2008. Giving a lecture in Australia, he said:

If you discuss the future with newspapermen, you will find that too many think that our business is only physical newspapers. I like the look and feel of newsprint as much as anyone. But our real business isn’t printing on dead trees. It’s giving our readers great journalism and great judgment.

It’s true that in the coming decades, the printed versions of some newspapers will lose circulation. But if papers provide readers with news they can trust, we’ll see gains in circulation—on our web pages, through our RSS feeds, in emails delivering customised news and advertising, to mobile phones.

In short, we are moving from newspapers to news brands. For all of my working life, I have believed that there is a social and commercial value in delivering accurate news and information in a cheap and timely way. In this coming century, the form of delivery may change, but the potential audience for our content will multiply many times over.

The audience may be fragmenting, newspapers losing readers to websites and social media, but the appetite for news and information is as insatiable as ever. Carry on, newsies. Happy birthday, Rupert!