After working for 68 years straight as the CEO and chair of public companies, you would expect Rupert Murdoch’s 90th birthday to be a big thing.
The only comparable contemporary act of uninterrupted institutional leadership is the Queen, who turns 95 next month after ascending to the throne in February 1952.
Given recent events, maybe Rupert and the Queen should call a joint press conference and retire together to let their squabbling families sort out their differences.
Rupert returned from Oxford in 1953 to take the reins of publicly listed News Ltd after his father Keith Murdoch’s shock death in October the previous year. Professionally, he has never been anything but a public company CEO. Since 1990 he has also insisted on being chairman of the board, whether it was News Corp, BSkyB, 21st Century Fox or Fox Corp.
A fanatical control freak, Rupert is a trust fund kid who has never had to take orders in a work place.
Rupert was born in Melbourne on this day in 1931 and shows no sign of slowing down. Indeed, eldest son and heir apparent Lachlan Murdoch famously told Michael Wolff in 2008: “Don’t you know, my dad’s never going to die?”
Like former Cabcharge CEO Reg Kermode, there is every chance Rupert will die in office rather than resign or retire ahead of time.
However, as usual, Rupert media outlets that he controls are not allowed to independently cover such an event unless he approves. He doesn’t want anyone talking about his age, so even his Australian corporate fawner-in-chief Terry McCrann is yet comment on the milestone.
The only AGM where Rupert and I engaged on the age question was this exchange in New York back in 2010:
Question: “You’re turning 80 next March. You’re the world’s longest-serving CEO — 57 years in the chair.”
Rupert Murdoch: “I don’t think so.”
Question: “Do you know who’s served longer at a public company?”
Rupert Murdoch: “I don’t know — I’m sure there has been…”
Question: “What are the plans when you turn 80? No possible intentions of slowing down at all?”
Rupert Murdoch: “No. When my health gives out, I will get out of the way and not before unless the board decides to remove me, but that is another matter.”
Rupert was indeed the world’s longest-serving public company CEO 10 years ago and even more more so today. The nearest rival is Warren Buffett, 90, who became executive chairman of Berkshire Hathaway in 1970 at the age of 39.
Whilst his outrageous annual pay packet hasn’t diminished, Rupert has been making fewer public appearances in recent years. He rarely attends the Fox or News Corp quarterly conference calls. Rupert’s last public utterance was when he was awarded a lifetime achievement award by the peculiar, London-based Australia Day Foundation on January 26 and released a brief video slamming what he described as “awful woke orthodoxy”.
This was another green light to his various global cultural warriors arguing against climate change action, gender equality, racial justice and various other so-called “woke” issues which powerful and entitled white men like Rupert feel threatened by.
According to SMH gossip columnist Andrew Hornery, Rupert is spending his 90th birthday at his California home but a big family celebration is planned for later in the year when flying restrictions are lifted.
But where is his all-staff email, an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal or the birthday interview on Fox News?
Contrast Rupert’s birthday silence with the extraordinary fanfare surrounding The Australian’s 50th birthday in 2014, or Rupert’s attendance as guest-of-honour at the IPA’s 70th birthday in 2013, where he was lauded by Tony Abbott.
Despite his age, Rupert Murdoch has never been bigger, richer, more powerful or more hated — so much so that his two biggest US media enemies, CNN and The New York Times, are teaming up to produce a six-part documentary on him that will air some time in 2021-22.
I spent two hours being interviewed by CNN’s documentary makers a couple of weeks ago and have never seen such a professional TV operation in action.
Rather than third parties talking about Rupert, he really should sit down and pen an autobiography about his extraordinary career inheriting one afternoon newspaper in sleepy Adelaide and building an unprecedented media empire which has seen him emerge as leader of arguably the world’s most powerful family, amassing a tidy $30 billion pile along the way.
It’s just such a shame that this notorious former Australian citizen has done more damage than good, unethically debauching journalism, warmongering, denying climate change, pulling Britain out of the EU and backing destructive demagogues like Donald Trump.
Rupert, you’re now 90. It’s time to go before you do any more damage.
Will Murdoch ever step down? How much damage will he do before he leaves his post? Let us know your thoughts by writing to [email protected]. Please include your full name to be considered for Crikey’s Your Say section.