Rupert Murdoch is going to war. He is mad as hell and isn't going to take it any more from his enemies who are tarnishing the good name of his company, News Corp. (NYSE: NWS). No more apologizing for past alleged indiscretions.
The media mogul's declaration of war last week specifically targets "the lies and libels" of such enemies as "the old toffs and right wingers" who are stuck in "the last century with their status quo monopolies."
The high-tech weapon used to launch the all-out attack on the old toffs and right-wingers was Rupert's Twitter account. He was so incensed at wrong doing on the part of his enemies, the night of March 26 he fired a barrage of three Twitter messages on the perceived injustices with increasing bellicosity. The tweet bombardment ended with a call to arms worthy of a Winston Churchill: "Let's have it on! Choice, freedom of thought and markets, individual personal responsibility."
That doesn't sound like the old blood-sucking vampire capitalist oligarch who once declared "Monopoly is a bad thing, until you own one."
It showed the new No More Mister Nice Guy is not one of those old farts who disdain modern weapons of mass distraction like Twitter. For example, I only tweet when fomenting a social revolution.
What made the Old Ghoul, as he is sometimes fondly called in his former Mother Country of Australia, go nuclear were the "old toffs and right-wingers" at the BBC... which must have surprised a lot of license-holders who always complain the Beeb swings the editorial cricket bat from the left side of the wicket.
What specifically got his dander up was the BBC running a documentary on its Panorama series, titled Murdoch's TV Pirates (not to be confused with the Pittsburgh Pirates or the Somali Pirates). After a four-year investigation by the Australian Financial Review newspaper, the Panorama documentary accused an arm of News Corp., NSD, which is in the encryption and smartcard business, of encouraging piracy against competitors by stealing the codes of pay-TV rivals, passing them on to disreputable consumers on the Net who could help destroy competitors in the pay-TV business.
By attacking 20th century monopolies, Rupert seemed to be implying that he and NewsCorp were paragons of personal responsibility and free choice for all. "He wanted free pay-TV for all," interpolated the old toffs and right-wingers at Perdido Street School blog. " Except for his own pay-TV networks, of course. Those you have to pay for."
What a guy.
I can understand why the Old Ghoul is especially agitated these days. NewsCorp may be facing two criminal investigations over the latest allegation -- one in Australia, one in Britain. The war against the media critics might be a feint designed to take investors' minds off the coming parliamentary report this month on what an MP has called "the single largest corporate corruption case in this country in 250 years -- phone hacking on an industrial scale, News International employees bribing the police so widely that Scotland Yard became, in effect, a subsidiary of News International."
NewsCorp released a statement accusing the BBC of "gross misrepresentation" in alleged stealing of codes. Murdoch's TV Pirates had "presented manipulated and mischaracterized e-mails to produce unfair and baseless accusations."
That is rich: Rupert and NewsCorp complaining about misdemeanors and other crimes of journalism. Hello kettle, meet pot.
To further calm investors, James Murdoch, who had drawn the short straw in the Who Dunnit UK newspaper cock-up, resigned this week as chairman of British Sky Broadcasting (LSE: BSY), a beneficiary of alleged chicanery in the NSD case. That clears the air in the Augean Stable that is NewsCorp, investors might believe.
If William Shakespeare were a NewsCorp common stockholder, he might very well be saying now, "The old ghoul doth protest too much, methinks."
@Ted Faraone, thank you so much for sharing your "boots on the ground" impressions of News Corp and Rupert's management style. Fascinating insights...
I think Rupert's kids, especially James are his Achilles heel. It's a drama played out everyday around the world--a family business in transition.
You illuminate an interesting paradox: News Corp needs to be centrally controlled, but the few competent people who can really do the job are overextended in trying to do everything themselves. Rupert struck out with James, and that must hurt.
I think highly of Chase Carey but he and Rupert have their hands full all right!
You make an interesting point. Written words often come back to haunt a person. That's why I review everything I post before posting it.
Marvin also posed an interesting question. I think the answer to it is this: Rupert built a business empire too big for him to control alone.
When Rupert is directly involved in one of his businesses it tends to be both successful and at least moderately honest. As a close friend of some NewsCorp honchos and former honchos and longtime consultant to the company (no longer), I have firsthand knowledge of this.
He is anything but senile. His mom who is still alive, was going strong past age 100. Rupert is only 80.
Where NewsCorp lags is in corporate governance. When it was a smaller company, Rupert could keep his finger on almost everything. Sometimes success is its own worst enemy. It just got too big for one man to run relying on weekly one page reports from each of his operating divisions. That is how he does it. The reports are primarily financial. They don't go into operating details.
A NewsCorp executive is expected to know how to do a job and succeed without attracting the attention of the police. Rupert would intervene in operating matters when he had a creative idea or saw something in print or on TV of which he did not approve. This sort of managment worked for a long time for NewsCorp, but it is now breaking down under the sheer size and mass of the enterprize.
I certainly don't blame Rupert for sticking to his time-honored managment style. He has had a historic level of success. But now, as big as his worldwide organization is, it may be time to reform the managment structure to prevent the inmates from getting carried away running the asylum by default.
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