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Rupert Murdoch: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Media Wizard Hardcover – November 12, 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
Veteran Aussie journalist Chenoweth impressively surveys Murdoch's decades-long business career, rendering in great detail the many bidding wars for acquisitions that have resulted in the behemoth News Corp and other Murdoch holdings. Yet this is hardly an "untold story," judging by the lengthy citations in the book's end notes, not to mention the author's previous investigative reporting on the Murdoch empire. However, Chenoweth's business-writing experience (he is a senior writer for the Australian Financial Review) makes him an ideal candidate to explain the tricky deals and slick legal maneuvers that are commonplace for Murdoch's global business. Murdoch has tremendous access to and influence on a variety of people and topics, and many readers are already familiar with Murdoch's deep pockets and insatiable interest in growth that have made him one of the world's great business legends. They will learn more about his business doings, among them the 1996 launch of Fox News and his interest in purchasing the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team, despite having "hated sports as a boy" (alas, he "realized that sports stories sold newspapers"). But sadly, the subject does not come alive here, and the reader begs for details that might have illuminated him and his decisions. Chenoweth purports that an "anti-Murdoch factor" exists, but any animosity seems very distant in this account. And the tycoon's personal life, including his late-life divorce and second marriage, is glossed over, only getting some attention in the second-to-last chapter. The decision to limit discussion of his private life is a weakness, since Murdoch the man might have shed light on Murdoch the businessman.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
The author, an Australian newspaperman, tells us, "In a society marked by impermanence, where the form of things is more significant than the substance, Murdoch is a shape-shifter, a conjurer of realities." In his research the author found his subject to be a creature of the cash trails that wind through the tax havens of the world. Following those trails, Chenoweth recounts what he considers a devastating series of consequences resulting from Murdoch's global manipulation. The book takes us through Murdoch's three great campaigns: his launch in the 1980s of an American television network that overturned the media industries of three countries, his takeover in 1997 of every broadcasting group in the U.S., and his frantic efforts to set up a global satellite network based on DirecTV. This book is a fascinating look at a man the author concludes is the most significant media player on the scene today. Mary Whaley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
Chenoweth writes with a combination of bemused disapproval and distant understanding of Murdoch's ruthless conniving with and against other ruthless connivers, as he takes his News Corp into the media digital world of the 21rst century, forever borrowing to keep his empire of media holdings around the world afloat. Murdoch is always juggling several business deals at the same time, one layered under the other, all impacting each other, daily stock fluctuations a constant threat to his deals, his endless lobbying of British, American, and Australian government officials to insure favorable rulings for his interests creating an army of enemies at every turn.
The more humorous episodes in the book detail Murdoch's consistently contradictory claims of corporate residency before government bodies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Internal Revenue Serve and Federal Communications Commission in the United States, the Inland Revenue bureau in Britain, in order to pay no or less taxes in the United States, Britain, and Australia, and to get around various ownership requirements based on nationality. Murdoch, Chenoweth shows, is a big fan of tax havens such as the Cayman Islands, Channel Islands, and Bermuda.
While Chenoweth generously details Murdoch's guileless imposition of his right wing politics on all his publications, which by the 21rst century included the prestigious Times of London and Wall Street Journal, he structures this biography around important media deals that crowned Murdoch as the most influential player of the digital age. Therefore the real meat of this book concerns the creation of the Fox television network, the right wing Fox News cable network, the Fox movie studios, (from which the name Fox is then attached to numerous holdings), HarperCollins book publishing, his global satellite TV empire begun with the modest structure of SKY Global, and Star TV in China.
Chenoweth does not go overboard in discussing the messy succession for News Corp among his children which remains quite murky at this juncture, or his messy personal life, which does not include his recent separation from his third wife, Wendi Deng.
If there is a weakness in this book it is the failure to give Murdoch his proper due as a journalist and publisher. His ruthless destruction of the British Printers Union, which helped to diminish the power of unions in Britain, is nothing to celebrate in church. But no newspaper in Britain, or the United States, or anywhere else in the world, refused to accept the digital printing technology of the 21rst century. In that sense, Murdoch did the dirty work for all of us. And whatever we might thing about the transformation of American journalism into the ideological bickering from the English tradition, and I detest it, that is the contemporary reality and Murdoch does it better than anybody else.
For all his aura as a deal making, international businessman, Rupert Murdoch possesses a better understanding of journalism's basics than any other media owner. He understands a good story and how to tell it, and the medium is just another venue to uphold that age old standard. It is instructive that he began his Fox television network by hiring the best writers from all of television and paid them big time money.
[Hansen Alexander's books include the comic novel, "The Death of Chauvinism," and "An Introduction to the Laws of the United States in the 21rst Century," an Amazon e-book exclusive.]