Where were British PM Tony Blair and
Israeli Vice Premier
Shimon Peres yesterday while the war in the Middle East
escalated to deadly new heights? At Rupertfest, of course – Newscorp’s
management retreat weekend in which 250 of the media giant’s
executives gather to chew over
the big international issues with a selection of world leaders, rock
stars and management gurus.

This year’s five-day event entitled “Imagining The Future” and staged
at California’s Pebble Beach seaside resort, opened yesterday with an
address from Blair, reportsThe Los Angeles Times. Its star-studded agenda (see below) also features former US Vice
President Al Gore on climate change, former US President Bill Clinton on inspiring change, and U2’s Bono who, after
being introduced by Rupert, will
deliver a keynote address at dinner tonight titled “The Power of One”.

“It’s not your standard cookie-cutter management conference where you
only talk about business,” says News Corp. spokesman Andrew Butcher.
“The businesses we run give our people unique social responsibilities
in their communities. The retreat is meant to provoke and broaden their
perspectives so they return home more curious and informed about the
world.”

Indeed. And what’s in it for the politicians?

Well, for Blair at least, the attraction’s pretty straightforward. According to The Independent‘s political editor Andrew Grice,
Murdoch is expected to offer Blair a
senior role in the News Corp. empire when he’s done being PM. According
to Blair’s “friends”, this “would dovetail neatly with the lucrative
United States lecture circuit” where, despite his waning popularity at
home, Blair remains “big box office”.

And it’s not the first time he’s attended Rupertfest. “In 1995, as Leader of the Opposition, he raised eyebrows by travelling
even further to address the same gathering when he went to Hayman
Island, off Australia. The trip cemented a relationship that has
apparently served both men well.”

And while Blair knows his enemies at home will see it as yet further proof of a “poodle”
relationship with the Australian-turned-American media tycoon, says The Guardian, refusing Murdoch’s invitation might have seen it extended to
David Cameron instead, the
kind of rising star News International prides itself on cultivating.

Meanwhile, there is much to discuss at this year’s
summit – it’s the first since 1998. According to the LA Times,
a get-together planned for
2001 was never held because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. We suggest
they pay particular attention at Thursday’s opener: “Mind Reading the
Zeitgeist”.

Peter Fray

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