There is no
doubt that The Bulletin’s special tribute
edition
to its boss was a big seller
as all the newsagents near us were sold out for days. Our
subscriber edition finally arrived five days after it first went on
sale, but it was worth the wait for this Packer-obsessive given the
phenomenal amount of material
that was produced in such a short period of time.

By
increasing the print run ACP could have made a smaller loss but commerce was
not the main motivation of this exercise.
In an arguably indulgent 100-page magazine, only seven and a half pages were
devoted to paid advertisements and another two house ads ran for Crown and The
Bulletin.

What must
Australia’s most famous business mogul, Rupert Murdoch, make of all the
hysteria in PBL outlets and elsewhere? On the
night news of Kerry Packer’s death broke, Channel Nine ran an extended bulletin and the Melbourne
coverage ran for 23 minutes alone, far longer than any of the competing
bulletins. The
7.30 Report
devoted its entire December 27 program to the man and the newspaper coverage was simply huge.

For a man whose main claim to fame was simply being rich and
getting richer, the coverage has been way over the top and incredibly
laudatory. Even The SMH
baulked at stating the obvious in this Kate McClymont piece on Saturday about Kerry
gifting $10 million worth of assets to his long-time “friend”, Julie Trethowan.

It is interesting that new Fairfax chairman Ron Walker is the long-time
business partner of Lloyd Williams, who now emerges as probably Kerry
Packer’s closest friend given that he is reportedly executor of his $7
billion estate. Is this causing some Fairfax editors to pull their
punches?

In terms of
living Australians, only Rupert Murdoch and former prime ministers would
generate such coverage, but it would be unlikely the political figures would
receive such positive spin.

Which
brings us to the question of what the News Corp empire would do if Rupert
Murdoch suddenly died? About four to five
years ago, then HeraldSun editorial writer Peter Game was given a week to
come up with obituaries for both Dame Elisabeth Murdoch and Rupert, after
editor Peter Blunden discovered nothing was in the can.

Whilst television and World Series Cricket were the two aspects of
Packer’s life that were most mentioned, in Murdoch’s case it would
everything from breaking the British print unions, pioneering BSkyB,
founding The Australian, blazing the trail with Fox News and building the Fox television empire.

However, we probably wouldn’t get anything quite like The Bulletin’s
special edition, although News Corp’s Australian papers in particular
would undoubtedly be full of 20-page plus lift-outs and tributes.

With Kerry’s death, the focus was on the man and his dealings, yet
Rupert’s death would trigger an almighty debate about who was in control
of News Corp because power would have to be shared by the children and
grandchildren, a very different situation to the Packer family where
James now has largely unfettered control.

The very first control question that would have to be dealt with at
News Corp would be the size and scale of the tributes. But who would
call the shots on that? It’s an issue that will have arisen across the
company as they observe the avalanche of Packer coverage.