He took a small-town newspaper and turned it into a billion dollar operation, gaining control of the information flow to nearly half the world in the process. He is loved by some, hated by many and even feared, but the power that Rupert Murdoch has in this world is undeniable. By thinking beyond national boundaries and embracing the opportunities presented in new technologies, Murdoch has created the first truly global media empire.
Born March 11, 1931 in Melbourne, Australia, Keith Rupert Murdoch II was the son of Dame Elisabeth Murdoch and Sir Keith Murdoch, a well-connected journalist and adviser to former Prime Minister of Australia Billy Hughes. Keith became Australia’s most prominent newspaper executive, owning The Herald and Weekly Times Ltd, and was knighted for his services to the crown. He had always envisioned passing on his business to his young son, but was disappointed with the young Rupert’s slow progress. Because of this, Murdoch desired to be like his father, but often rebelled.
Murdoch attended Geelong Grammar School, the same elite boarding school in the outskirts of Australia attended by Prince Charles. He later enrolled in Worcester College at the University of Oxford. At the time, his father was experiencing severe heart problems and grew disappointed to learn that his son was developing a reputation for nothing more than partying at the expense of his studies. Worried about his son’s future, Keith called on a favour from a friend of his, Lord Beaverbrook, who was the publisher of the Daily Express in London. Beaverbrook gave Rupert a job working at the newspaper, where he quickly developed a talent for sensational headlines and snappy writing.
While attending university, Murdoch developed a penchant for socialism and began looking up to Lenin, who he admired as a great man. He was also an articulate and passionate debater and for this reason, he was elected president of Oxford’s Labour Club in 1950. At the same time, Murdoch was developing his business sense, working in the advertising department of the student newspaper Cherwell.
In 1952, Murdoch’s father passed away. After Australia’s hefty death taxes, Murdoch’s inheritance was much less than he had presumed. He completed his master’s degree at Oxford and then promptly returned to Australia to try and rekindle a small Adelaide newspaper that his father had owned, The News. With a reputation for being lazy and inexperienced, Murdoch found it difficult to gain the respect of fellow publishers. But, he dedicated himself to trying to learn the intricacies of newspaper production.
The News first began to gain significant attention in 1959, when it joined the Sydney Morning Herald in successfully campaigning against the capital punishment of Max Stuart. Stuart was an Australian Aborigine sentenced to death after a controversial murder trial. Although it was The News’ editor Rohan Rivett who led the charge, Murdoch took most of the credit.
With his newfound reputation, Murdoch began setting out to expand his realm of control. It wouldn’t be long before he had established himself as one of the most successful media owners in the country and later, the world.