The chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, aged 76, now has in his pocket Dow Jones, which owns the esteemed organ of the US financial establishment, after much agonising by its previous owners the Bancroft family, who eventually succumbed to his four-month chess game of wearing them down. It worked, showing that despite his advancing years Murdoch is still at the top of his game. He has coveted the Journal for more than a decade, rather like an art collector seeking the final piece to complete his set of masters. Murdoch has promised he will not interfere with the WSJ's much admired editorial independence, but some of the paper's reporters and long-time subscribers were reported to be highly sceptical. the deal still has to be approved by the FCC, although it is thought likely to be approved.
At the price of $5.6 billion Murdoch has once again proven himself to be unstoppable, just as people began to suggest he was winding down and preparing for a succession. The WSJ is the second best-selling newspaper in the US - with it, Murdoch has the missing piece in his US empire. Until now he had to be content with owning the New York Post, which he rescued from bankruptcy and turned into a trashy tabloid, while in broadcast news he has Fox, groundbreaking and influential for shaking up the world of cable news, and pushing CNN into second place with its brand of argumentative and unashamedly rightwing output.
Kelvin McKenzie, who was his editor at The Sun, says Murdoch is a "huge, restless spirit" who will never be satisfied in his appetite for expanding his power and influence, although some see his acquisition of the Journal as little to do with commerce, given the declining fortunes of the print media. Murdoch has moved into the digital space with the acquisition of MySpace, while his Fox Broadcasting Co television brands include ‘The Simpsons', ‘24' and ‘American Idol'.
Murdoch has always exercised his own political preferences by using his editorial power to support those he likes and to attack those he doesn't. He has recently buried the hatchet with the Clintons, and thrown his weight behind New York Senator Hilary Clinton's campaign to be Democratic presidential candidate in 2008, after years of hounding her and her husband through the New York Post. Murdoch has the ear of many a powerful politician, as recent revelations about his conversations with Tony Blair just before the invasion of Iraq in 2003 have confirmed. Those conversations were followed by vitriolic attacks on anti-war French president Jacques Chirac in Murdoch's UK tabloid The Sun.
With the Journal as the jewel in Murdoch's US crown, he is unassailable in the global English speaking media - and that may cause some to lament that he has not chosen to retire gracefully.
The Independent, 2 August
Review by Joe Gill