The Untold Truth Of Rupert Murdoch

Chairman of the conglomerates News Corp. and Fox Corp., Rupert Murdoch wields the kind of influence that's made him a right-wing kingmaker throughout the world. In the process, he's become one of the past century's wealthiest and most controversial figures since expanding his Australian newspaper holdings to Britain, then the U.S., and, ultimately, worldwide to create a globe-spanning multimedia empire.

Meanwhile, the Australian-born media mogul has become many things to many people, largely thanks to criticism of Murdoch's ultra-conservative Fox News cable network. Rolling Stone columnist Matt Taibbi, for example, lambasted Murdoch as "deviant scum," while Crosby Stills & Nash co-founder David Crosby once accused the Fox News founder of feeding "untrue s**t" to "a lot of really stupid people," as he told the Daily Beast. Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull went a step further by accusing Murdoch of attacking democracy by having "divided Americans against each other and so undermined their faith in political institutions."

Murdoch, in fact, has been the unseen hand behind some of the most monumental changes in the way people view and consume media over the past half-century. Despite being a widely-known public figure — HBO's hit series "Succession," in fact, is rumored to be based on him and his family — the billionaire also remains something of an elusive, enigmatic figure. With that in mind, keep reading to discover the untold truth of Rupert Murdoch.

Rupert Murdoch owned his first newspaper at age 22

Keith Rupert Murdoch was born in 1931 in Melbourne, Australia, the son of newspaper mogul Sir Keith Murdoch, noted a BBC News profile. Born into wealth and privilege, the newspaper scion enjoyed a posh upbringing and an Oxford education. In 1952, at just 22 years old, his father died, with Rupert inheriting his father's chains of regional newspapers. 

According to the BBC News, the brash young Murdoch quickly made his mark by taking the newspapers in a more sensational direction, resulting in financial success that allowed the company — News International — to make a series of acquisitions that, by 1967, led the firm to be valued at $50 million. In 1968, Murdoch became a major player in British media when he purchased Britain's popular News of the World tabloid. He soon scooped up more British newspapers, including the Sunday Times and The Sun. In 1985, Murdoch became an American citizen to get around U.S. laws involving foreign ownership of media holdings, resulting in the purchase of 20th Century Fox and the launching of the Fox television network and, subsequently, his Fox News cable network. 

In a 1976 interview with The Village Voice, Murdoch reflected on his path to become a media mogul. "We started with a very small paper," he said, "and we've never had much money. We've al­ways had to borrow and expand ... So we always got the sick papers and had to turn them around."

He single-handedly invented modern tabloid journalism

When Rupert Murdoch took over his father's newspapers, he also infused them with his philosophy, which seemed to have less less to do with reporting the news than with giving people what he thought they wanted to see. One of those innovations came when he acquired British tabloid The Sun, starting a tradition of featuring a different bare-breasted woman in each issue (a practice the newspaper finally abandoned in 2015). As The Economist deftly pointed out, Murdoch can lay claim to having "invented the modern tabloid newspaper — a stew of sexual titillation, moral outrage and political aggression."

And while the technology has changed since Murdoch both ruled and revolutionized British media back in the 1960s, his tactics have not. "Fox News is for Murdoch now what the tabloids were 40 years ago, a profit gusher that keeps his business prosperous," noted the Daily Beast in 2021.

That strategy has also evolved, noted journalist David Folkenflik while promoting his Murdoch documentary "Murdoch's World," to become more cost-effective, as "the success of Fox News ... is not dependent on churning out scoops about celebrities and politicians. It's actually dependent on argumentation, which is much cheaper than paying hordes of reporters to go out and ransack people's trash bins and the like," Folkenflik said in an interview with CBC News.

His son-in-law, a descendent of Sigmund Freud, has publicly slammed him

Rupert Murdoch has six children, including daughter Elisabeth. In 2001, she married Matthew Freud, the great-great-grandson of Sigmund Freud, the pioneering psychologist known as the father of psychoanalysis. Although the couple divorced in 2014, during the decade-plus marriage, Matthew repeatedly — and publicly — clashed with his father-in-law.  

That was clear in a 2010 profile in The New York Times on then-Fox News chief Roger Ailes, who died in 2017. "I am by no means alone within the family or the company in being ashamed and sickened by Roger Ailes's horrendous and sustained disregard of the journalistic standards that News Corporation, its founder and every other global media business aspires to," said Matthew in the piece.

By 2013, Matthew's "rocky" relationship with his father-in-law had only deteriorated, according to The Guardian. Taking a page from Rupert's own tabloid-style approach, the newspaper quoted "a source close to Mr. Murdoch" who insisted that "Matthew and Rupert have no relationship and so none of this is a surprise." Matthew, a top London PR rep, issued a carefully-worded statement in response to say that their "views differ quite dramatically on a number of subjects professionally," which has contributed to a relationship that is "sometimes conflicted," he said.

Rupert Murdoch broke one of Britain's most powerful unions

Rupert Murdoch has proven himself to be no fan of labor unions over the years, which bubbled up to the forefront in 1986. That was when, recalled The Guardian, the media baron announced plans for his company, then known as News International, to shift its British newspaper printing operations from an existing facility in Wapping to a new one in East London. 

When talks between management and the union broke down, nearly 6,000 of Murdoch's workers declared war by going on strike. Murdoch responded by firing every last one of them. His reasoning, he explained in a speech years later, was that Britain's print unions had grown so powerful they "had a noose round the neck of the industry, and they pulled it very tight."

To replace the workers, Murdoch hired members of the "rogue" Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunications and Plumbing Union, which essentially pitted the two unions against each other. John Grant, a director of the electricians' union, told The New York Times of the "significant friction" this caused. ”The only question now is whether it will get worse, and the outlook is not good,” as Ron Garner, one of the fired Wapping workers, said, conceding to The Guardian that Murdoch had outsmarted them. "It was a war, and we lost it. We were led into a trap, and we played into his hands."

His ill-timed purchase of MySpace was a massive financial blunder

Much has been written about Rupert Murdoch's shrewd business acumen, but he's also had his clunkers. The most notorious was his 2005 purchase of MySpace, paying $580 million to acquire the social media platform. 

Initially, the deal looked like a masterstroke, with Murdoch revealing in 2007 he planned to introduce MySpace to China. In fact, just a few years later, in 2009, The New York Times described the purchase as "one of Rupert Murdoch's savviest buys." What Murdoch hadn't bargained for was that a less-established competitor called Facebook would essentially render MySpace obsolete. By 2011, MySpace had been utterly crushed by Facebook, leading Murdoch to concede he made a "huge mistake," Murdoch admitted in a speech to shareholders, as reported by Business Insider. He also confessed that his team mishandled it "in every possible way" and that they "could have sold it for $6 billion a month later."

To Murdoch's credit, he took the massive business blunder on the chin when he addressed the debacle in a 2012 tweet. "Many questions and jokes about [MySpace]. [S]imple answer – we screwed up in every way possible" and "learned lots of valuable expensive lessons," he wrote. Murdoch ultimately sold MySpace for $35 million, taking a financial hit of nearly $550 million, per Reuters.

He apologized and shuttered a newspaper when his papers' phone-hacking tactics were revealed

Rupert Murdoch and his businesses have seen their fair share of controversy over the years, but none will ever rival the scandal that ensued when journalists working for Murdoch's British newspapers, News of the World, were accused of hacking into people's cell phones to dig up dirt. A subsequent trial, reported BBC News, found that those allegations were right on the money. The real death blow, however, came when the trial presented evidence that the phone of murdered 13-year-old Milly Dowler had been hacked. 

The damage was deep and the damage control extreme. In addition to full-page ads reading "We are sorry," reported The Guardian, News of the World was shut down. Meanwhile, Murdoch himself denied any knowledge of the hacking. In fact, noted The Guardian, Murdoch took the drastic — and uncharacteristic — step of meeting personally with the slain teenager's parents. "He apologized many times. I don't think anybody could have held their head in their hands so many times," Mark Lewis, the Dowler family's attorney, told the newspaper.

According to The Guardian, Murdoch told his Sun newspaper about his "totally private" meeting with the Dowler family. "As founder of the company I was appalled to find out what had happened and I apologi[z]ed," said Murdoch, while Lewis told BBC News that Murdoch appeared "humbled, shaken and sincere."

His second divorce was reported to be the most expensive in history

Marriage is something that Rupert Murdoch apparently enjoys, because he's done it four times. A Metro roundup recalled his various marital unions, including wedding flight attendant Patricia Booker in 1958 and divorcing in 1967. The same year as his divorce, he married journalist Anna Torv, with that union ending in 1999. He then married and divorced Wendy Deng before remarrying a fourth time.

It was his divorce from Torv, however, that proved to be his most costly — and, proclaimed Business Insider, the most expensive divorce in history. Torv, mother to three of Murdoch's six children, received an astonishing $1.7 billion divorce settlement, of $110 million in cash and the remainder in assets. Murdoch's wedding to Deng, by the way, took place just 17 days after his divorce from Torv was finalized, noted Metro.

In a 2013 feature about the divorce settlement for The Guardian, journalist Michael Wolff questioned the accuracy of that amount, noting that the first reported settlement figure, in an Australian women's magazine, was $1 billion in Australian dollars, or approximately $660 million, with the number seemingly growing larger each time it was reported. In any case, Wolff noted that media reports of the divorce settlement skipped over what he seemed to think was a far more salient tidbit of info: that Murdoch "has not spoken to the mother of three of his children since he left their home, 15 years ago."

The media mogul played himself on The Simpsons

One of the biggest and most enduring cash cows in Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. empire is "The Simpsons." In fact, as The Hollywood Reporter noted back in 2011, a new syndication deal reportedly held the potential for "about $750 million of incremental content monetization" in addition to the millions the show had already raked in.

Despite being cogs in the News Corp. machinery, the writers of "The Simpsons" have never been shy about biting the billionaire hand that feeds them, and an animated version of Murdoch has made several appearances on the show over the years. In fact, in two of those cameos, Murdoch actually provided his own voice, including the 1998 post-Super Bowl episode. In the storyline, reported The Buffalo News, Homer Simpson brings his pals from Springfield to the Super Bowl with bogus tickets that bring them into a VIP luxury box. While the gang chows down on the free food, a helicopter lands on the glass roof, with Murdoch emerging. "What the bloody hell?" Murdoch tells the group, with Homer mouthing off, "Hit the road gramps, this is a private skybox." Murdoch responds, "I'm Rupert Murdoch, the billionaire tyrant, and this is my skybox."

According to "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening, Murdoch displayed a sense of humor about himself. "He performed it with great zeal," said Groening of Murdoch's "billionaire tyrant" line when speaking to The Associated Press, as reported by HuffPost. 

Rupert Murdoch is married to Mick Jagger's ex-wife

Rupert Murdoch and Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger share three things in common: They're obscenely wealthy, have each fathered numerous children with multiple women, and each has been married to Texas model Jerry HallAccording to a piece Michael Wolff wrote for GQ, Murdoch marrying Hall isn't as surprising as one might imagine. "His pursuit of beautiful women has shaped him and, therefore, in some sense, our time," Wolff opined, noting that Murdoch's quest "for sex, glamour and companionship ... has always been in plain sight."

Following his divorce from third wife Wendy Deng, Murdoch married Hall in 2016. At the time, Murdoch was 84, while Hall was 59. According to USA Today, the nuptials took place in "an 18-century palace in central London" owned by the brother of the late Princess Diana, with Hall's four children with Jagger in attendance.  

When it was all over and the knot was officially tied, Murdoch took to social media to share his elation. "No more tweets for [10] days or ever! Feel like the luckiest AND happiest man in [the] world," he tweeted. Meanwhile, when Hall was asked how things went post-ceremony, reported The Guardian, she responded, "Absolutely wonderful."

He was swindled in a massive Silicon Valley scam

Rupert Murdoch's $500 million-plus MySpace blunder wasn't the only misstep he's made along the way. Another came when he made a significant investment in Silicon Valley startup Theranos, with Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes claiming the company's technology could diagnose all manner of medical maladies from a small amount of a person's blood. Of course, as numerous media reports, a book, and an HBO documentary made crystal clear, the technology Holmes touted didn't actually exist, and the whole thing was a massive scam to bilk investors (as of November 2021, Holmes was tried on charges of fraud and conspiracy, facing 20 years in the slammer). 

According to CNBC, Murdoch is one of many investors to pump money into the bogus venture, sinking $125 million into the company, which, at one point, was valued at $9 billion. During the trial, CNBC reported, it was revealed that Murdoch was enticed with outright lies, including claims that "Theranos offers tests with the highest level of accuracy" and that the company's blood-testing technology "generates significantly higher integrity data than currently possible."

In 2017, the Silicon Valley Business Journal reported that Murdoch had sold all his shares in Theranos, receiving a payout of $1.

He's one of the planet's wealthiest people

It's hardly news that Rupert Murdoch is in the upper echelons of the 1%, maintaining his position as one of the world's richest people. As of November 2021, reported Forbes, Murdoch was worth an estimated $22.2 billion as the head of two companies: News Corp., a conglomerate that includes The Wall Street Journal, Barron's, the New York Post, and HarperCollins, and Fox Corp., which controls Fox News network. In 2019, a Disney merger involving the 20th Century Fox movie studio, the Fox and FX networks, and the National Geographic networks made Murdoch's company $71.3 billion wealthier.

Beyond Murdoch's media holdings, he also owns some significant real estate. As Dirt reported, in 2019, he and wife Jerry Hall plunked down about $15 million for an 18th-century mansion on the outskirts of London and the following year purchased "a 200 [year-old] fixer-upper" in a small British village that required a hefty $40 million in renovations. The couple also spent about $4.3 million on a home next door to Murdoch's winery in Los Angeles and own "a mansion-sized triplex penthouse" (via Dirt) and the entire floor below it, for which Murdoch paid $58 million in 2014. 

Also in 2014, Murdoch sold his 184-foot yacht, Rosehearty, for $29.7 million. Murdoch also owns a Gulfstream G650, reported Business Insider, the fastest and most luxurious private jet that $84 million can buy.

The billionaire exec was forced to take a pandemic pay cut

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in much economic hardship throughout the world, and Rupert Murdoch was not immune. In fact, the situation led to a less-profitable-than-expected year for Murdoch's businesses, forcing the billionaire to take a pay cut. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Murdoch received a 2021 bonus package "valued at $31.1 million," a reduction from the previous year's bonus of $34 million. 

Murdoch isn't the only member of his family forced to do some pandemic-related belt-tightening. His son, Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch, had to make do with a bonus of just $27.7 million, a couple mil less than the $29.1 million he'd taken home the year before. 

As The Hollywood Reporter reported, the reductions came about when the Murdochs and other key executives at Fox "agreed to cut their base salaries during the pandemic." By slightly reducing just a few of these large paydays, the company said, Fox Corp. "reduced their aggregate total target compensation by 9%."

He's famously clashed with his youngest son

Rupert Murdoch hasn't always seen eye-to-eye with all of his six children. That was certainly the case in July 2020, when NBC News reported that his youngest son, James Murdoch, resigned from the board of News Corp. "My resignation is due to disagreements over certain editorial content published by the Company's news outlets and certain other strategic decisions," James wrote in a letter explaining his decision. 

In fact, James has never shared his father's conservative views and has not been shy about letting that be known publicly. This was clear when he lambasted then-President Donald Trump's "good people on both sides" response to the 2017 violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and threw his support for then-presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg in an interview with The New Yorker.

According to NBC News' report, James and his "activist wife, Kathryn, who used to work for the Clinton Climate Initiative" had openly criticized his father's Australian media outlets for downplaying the role of climate change in reporting the wildfires that had devastated Australia. "They are particularly disappointed with the ongoing denial among the news outlets in Australia given obvious evidence to the contrary," a spokesperson told the Daily Beast. Rupert and eldest son Lachlan responded with a kiss-off statement, per NBC News, reading, "We're grateful to James for his many years of service to the company. We wish him the very best in his future endeavors."

He's been portrayed in numerous films and TV series

While Rupert Murdoch may have voiced an animated version of himself on "The Simpsons," he's also been portrayed by a variety of actors in film and TV projects. For example, actor Simon McBurney played Murdoch in its miniseries about Fox News chief Roger Ailes, "The Loudest Voice." Murdoch was also played by Malcolm McDowell in the film "Bombshell," which recounted the various sexual harassment cases that nearly brought down the entire network. 

In addition, Murdoch has been played by Barry Humphries (a.k.a. Dame Edna Everage) in the 1991 miniseries "Selling Hitler," by Ben Mendelsohn in "Black and White," by Paul Elder in the HBO movie "The Late Shift," and by Patrick Brammall in the TV miniseries "Power Games."

Beyond that, there have been some fictionalized TV and film characters that were clearly based on Murdoch, including media mogul Logan Roy (played by Brian Cox) in HBO's "Succession," Australian billionaire Rod McCain (Kevin Kline) in the comedy "Fierce Creatures," and Kench Allenby (Josh Lawson) in "Anchorman 2."