Hacking scandal could derail biggest deal yet

Media mogul Murdoch faces new battle

GMT 11:07 2011 Thursday ,07 July

Arab Today, arab today Media mogul Murdoch faces new battle

News of the World allegedly hacked the phones of the London bombings
Sydney - AFP

News of the World allegedly hacked the phones of the London bombings Australian-born media mogul Rupert Murdoch turned 80 this year but his eventful life and career now present him with yet another crisis as a hacking scandal threatens to derail his biggest deal yet. Murdoch has condemned as "deplorable and unacceptable" claims that his News of the World newspaper hacked the phones of relatives of murdered children and victims of the London bombings, and promised full cooperation with police.
But a national furore over the allegations imperils his controversial bid to take full control of satellite broadcaster BSkyB, with the British opposition urging the government to delay an imminent decision on the deal.
Observers of the billionaire father-of-six, who has spent a lifetime building his News Corp. empire from a single Adelaide afternoon paper, say he has plenty of life left in him.
"I think anyone who is looking forward to Rupert's retirement will be very disappointed. Rupert, far from winding down... he's winding up," Australian journalist and author Hugh Lunn said ahead of the tycoon's March birthday.
"He is getting bigger -- it shows you what you can still do even when you're in your eighties," said Lunn, who worked for Melbourne-born Murdoch for 17 years.
Comments on his age are reportedly unwelcome, but Murdoch has crammed much into his eight decades -- creating a business with interests stretching from Australia to Europe, the United States, Asia and Latin America.
Born into a patrician family headed by his newspaper proprietor father, Sir Keith Murdoch, he is frequently reviled by critics who slam his politically-conservative dominance of the global news market and blame him for the excesses of tabloid media.
But he is revered in equal measure by his staff and respected by opponents.
Acquisition and expansion, and a formidable capacity to manage debt, have characterised his career.
Out of his Australian newspaper assets, including his launching of the national broadsheet The Australian in 1964, grew a global media empire.
In the late 1960s, he moved to London where he acquired more mastheads, including News of the World and The Sun and later The Times, changing the face and landscape of the British media and outraging traditional proprietors.
In the 1980s, he fought a bitter industrial dispute over his decision to move his papers from their traditional home in Fleet Street to new headquarters in Wapping where electronic production allowed him to slash staff.
Murdoch has always moved around the world to be near his business interests. From Britain, he relocated to the United States where more bold acquisitions followed and where he became a naturalised US citizen in 1985.
By 2010, his News Corp. boasted assets of US$57 billion and annual revenues of about US$33 billion across its television, book publishing, Internet and newspaper businesses, including conservative US media outlets such as Fox television and the Wall Street Journal.
Murdoch, three-times married and known for his flawless manners, has never diversified out of the media businesses -- often taking considerable risks with his buys -- and is often portrayed as a newsman at heart.
The media proprietor has always surprised, and his bold BSkyB bid is the latest in a long string of unexpected moves that include his tendency to turn up unannounced in his offices around the world, Lunn said.
"He turns up unexpectedly at your desk," Lunn said. "And Rupert asks you questions... or else he says, 'What's the circulation of your opposition paper?'"
Murdoch is undoubtedly the biggest media name in his home country, dominating newspapers, Internet and cable television, and playing an influential role in national politics.
But as his mother Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, who turned 102 in February, has said, wealth and influence are not everything to everyone.
She said she tells people: "I say, 'I am very proud of him because he's a good father and a good son.' And that's what I'm proud of. Not so proud of his wealth."

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