tip off

Murdoch family civil war, but don’t write off Rupert yet

The relationship revelations from within the Murdoch family have been particularly juicy over the summer, but those writing off Rupert are doing so prematurely.

The Australian Financial Review’s Neil Chenoweth and New York-based media writer Michael Wolff are the two best-informed observers of all things Murdoch. The two collaborated last week as Chenoweth produced a fascinating feature on what he calls the Murdoch family “reality show” across two pages of the Weekend Fin.

The latest Rupert divorce is at the heart of the battle, but to understand the history here is a useful internet guide to the key revelations as they unfolded …

  • August 6, 2013: Michael Wolff reveals in USA Today all sorts of alleged affairs and alliances around the Murdochs and Rebekah Brooks.
  • November 10, 2013: Michael Wolff writes in USA Today that Rupert filed for divorce from Wendi after media reports that she was romantically involved with Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt and that Rupert was now romantically involved with his massage therapist.
  • November 23, 2013: Original Mail on Sunday piece on Tony Blair and Rupert Murdoch falling out over alleged Blair-Wendi “multiple encounters”.
  • November 30, 2013: Mail on Sunday follow-up piece as the Blair and Rupert camps go to war in excruciating detail.
  • January 18, 2014: Neil Chenoweth pulls it all together in the AFR, including unprecedented on-the-record comments and denials from both sides of the warring family. Rupert’s spokesman told Chenoweth the world’s most powerful mogul “is not and has not been dating anyone”.
  • January 18, 2014: Andrew Hornery buries a line in his Sydney Morning Herald ”Private Sydney” column that “there is a new woman in the 83-year-old’s life, a media executive in Sydney in her early 30s, who is well known to the extended Murdoch family. While the rumoured relationship is yet to be confirmed, friends of the woman are said to be gobsmacked by the news.”

Chenoweth’s response to this new revelation on Twitter was simply: “Oh golly.”

Elisabeth Murdoch’s husband Matthew Freud appears to be co-ordinating the family attack on Rupert and Chenoweth finished his Saturday piece claiming that Freud was “Wendi Deng’s best friend”. A former Freud PR staffer is acting as Wendi’s publicist.

Wolff also told Chenoweth that he doesn’t see compelling evidence confirming the Blair-Wendi affair and that Rupert simply went after Blair because he sided with Wendi as his third marriage broke down.

So, what is to be believed in this environment of extraordinary claims and unprecedented revelations from inside the warring Murdoch family?

It’s not in dispute that Blair and Wendi had a series of meetings that Rupert didn’t know about ahead of the divorce, but it is entirely plausible that these were “purely platonic” as Blair claims. Blair was godfather to one of Wendi’s two daughters with Rupert, and Blair had built a relationship with Wendi as he attempted to “handle” Murdoch while British prime minister.

If Wendi was miserable about the marriage, Blair was an obvious shoulder to cry on and even the Mail on Sunday claim about Wendi’s note to herself suggesting a “crush” on Blair in no way confirms that he took the next incredibly risky step of conducting an affair. Besides, there is no public sign of any stress in the Blair marriage.

If Rupert has instigated an ambush divorce of Wendi based on a false rumour which he then propagated through the press, then Wendi does deserve sympathy and the support of people like Freud. In this scenario, Blair has also been spectacularly shafted by Rupert and joins a long line of former political leaders harbouring great animosity towards him.

Why on earth should Blair be collateral damage as the Murdoch adult children finally won their battle to have Wendi thrown out of the family scene?

The other key question around all of this goes to whether the “Rupert Murdoch era” is over, as claimed by Guardian writer Steve Hewlett on January 6.

Say what? Rupert has just helped change the Australian government, Fox News is bigger and more profitable than ever and the value of the family fortune has doubled to a record $14 billion since the depths of the phone hacking firestorm. I can’t see how anyone can declare Rupert’s influence is over, or even particularly in decline.

He’s now the chairman of two mighty companies, News Corp and 21st Century Fox, and retains voting, board and management control over both of them. For instance, there is no way 21st Century Fox would have announced it was delisting from the ASX without Rupert’s say so.

Sure, he’s now facing more determined enemies — including from inside his own family — than ever before, but none of them have any real power to curtail his record 61-year run as the CEO and ultimate controlling influence over the most extraordinary and powerful media empire ever assembled.

10
  • 1
    klewso
    Posted Monday, 20 January 2014 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    When it involves Rupert’s family? Wouldn’t that be a “surreality show”?

  • 2
    klewso
    Posted Monday, 20 January 2014 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Looking forward to this being covered in more death in Limited News?

  • 3
    klewso
    Posted Monday, 20 January 2014 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    …. sorry, that should be “… more depth in Limited News”, shouldn’t it…?

  • 4
    klewso
    Posted Monday, 20 January 2014 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Poor Tony Blair”????
    When you choose to sup with the devil, take a long spoon before your dancing pumps?

  • 5
    JohnB
    Posted Monday, 20 January 2014 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Keep this coming - it far surpasses my experience of one wife, three kids and (now) no dog.

  • 6
    Posted Monday, 20 January 2014 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Will it end like this, as per Bladerunner script?: [with Rupert in the role of aging mogul Tyrell]

    Sebastian and Roy gain entrance into Tyrell’s secure penthouse, where Roy demands more life from his maker. Tyrell tells him that it is impossible. Roy confesses his guilt that he has done “questionable things” which Tyrell dismisses, praising Roy’s advanced design and his accomplishments. Roy responds with “nothing the god of biomechanics wouldn’t let you into heaven for” and kisses Tyrell, then kills him. Sebastian runs for the elevator followed by Roy, who then rides the elevator down alone.”

  • 7
    SusieQ
    Posted Monday, 20 January 2014 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Its just a long running soap opera isn’t it?? This article could be a plotline for any soap opera - who needs the Bold and the Beautiful??

  • 8
    AR
    Posted Monday, 20 January 2014 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Klewy - I preferred your (Matthew)Freudian…?!) typo,”more death in Limted News”.
    Why would anyone in possession of functioning neurons and even a strong stomach, have anything to do with bLIAR, aka by his apposite anagram “I’m tory Plan B”, acknowledged by MrsT as her greatest achievement.

  • 9
    Electric Lardyland
    Posted Monday, 20 January 2014 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    Is it really a civil war when there’s no shots being fired or bombs being thrown? Come on Newscorp, lift your game.
    Actually, now that I think of it, maybe the family could employ their underlings to fight it out for them. I mean, maybe the print division could emerge out of Holt St, dressed in medieval attire with genuine weaponry, and march on the division of the empire based at Fox studios. And of course, if they just happened to meet at the SCG, they’d probably be a dollar or two to be made by selling admission.

  • 10
    JohnB
    Posted Tuesday, 21 January 2014 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    As the saying goes, “we ain’t seen nothing yet”.

    After Rupert finally goes the way of all mortals the real fun will begin and it will involve much more than just the family.

    Sadly, I might miss the show. If Rupert hangs on till he is 100, as I am sure he seeks to do, I will either be close to 80 or will have predeceased him… as will many of his current detractors.

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