MediaFile

Murdoch wants newspapers, just not The New York Times

Michael Wolff, author of the recently published Rupert Murdoch tell-all, “The Man Who Owns the News,” says that the News Corp chief executive would love to buy The New York Times. The only thing standing in his way is the Ochs-Sulzberger family which controls the Times. If they’re anything like the Bancrofts, former controllers of Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal, only an insane amount of money might persuade them to let go of the prized but struggling newspaper publisher.

Or maybe Murdoch himself. Whatever the scuttlebutt is about Murdoch’s plans for the Times, he told reporters on Thursday that he’s not interested in buying it. Speaking on a conference call after the company reported dismal second-quarter results, he said it might not be good for his image:

“I’ve got no desire to be an even bigger public enemy.”

This, of course, refers to the charge leveled at him from London to New York to Hong Kong that he uses the papers and other media that he owns to advance his personal business interests.

As for newspapers themselves? He already owns a bunch, from the Journal (which was part of a $3 billion-plus writedown on Thursday’s earnings) to the New York Post ($185 million writedown Thursday) to The Times of London to The Australian. And he’s keeping them, by the sound of things:

“I’ve got great faith. If we continue the way we’re going, we may even get lucky and not have so much competition at the end of it all.”

How I Wolff’d down the Murdoch book

After nearly setting off my tilt mechanism at Thanksgiving dinner by eating twice my weight in food, I spent the earlier part of Friday gorging on as much of Michael Wolff’s new Rupert Murdoch biography as I could. I read just enough to think of some questions for Wolff that wouldn’t come off as sounding too stupid, and then we got on the phone.

First, a short reminder of why we care about Rupert Murdoch and want to read Wolff’s book, “The Man Who Owns the News,” which Broadway Books, an imprint of Random House’s Doubleday label, is releasing on Dec. 2 (after passing some copies around to people like me):

    Murdoch is the legendarily aggressive Australian businessman who built News Corp into an international media empire. He owns this crazy collection of stuff, from MySpace to the New York Post to Sky Italia to stakes in companies in countries you’ve never even heard of. He did it despite — and perhaps because of — his treatment by more well-heeled media contemporaries as a vulgar, Antipodean mutant form of themselves. He’s a big risk-taker, as evidenced by his $5.6 billion purchase of Dow Jones & Co and its crown jewel, The Wall Street Journal. That price was 65 percent more than the company was worth. His love life with the much younger Wendi Deng causes constant speculation about who will run his empire when he is gone. Some people think he uses his news outlets to advance his business interests, something that in utterly unremarkable in certain parts of the world.

Now for some Q&A with Michael Wolff. We moved one or two items out of chronological order to preserve a bit of continuity with the questions.

Wolff opines on Murdoch… again

Can you tell it’s book-flacking time?

Vanity Fair is running the second excerpt from the forthcoming book that Michael Wolff wrote about News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch (this one centers on his family), and Wolff is making the rounds this week to talk about it. He was on CNBC moments ago, engaging in everyone’s favorite media parlor game: Parsing Murdoch’s every move like a multi-clause sentence. Friday’s appearance follows a panel discussion at a PaidContent.org conference earlier this week where he made similar remarks. Here’s what he said on CNBC.

What will Murdoch do after buying The Wall Street Journal? What’s his next move?

“I’m not sure that he exactly knows. One of the problems here is that he bought a newspaper and not only did he buy a newspaper, but if he had only waited six months to buy that newspaper he would have saved a billion and a half dollars.” (Nothing like hindsight, is there?)

Murdoch book to drop in Feb ’09

wolff-murdoch-book.JPGVanity Fair media scribe Michael Wolff spent hundreds of hours with News Corp Chief Rupert Murdoch and the people who love and hate him, so you don’t have to.

The fruits of his labor — “The Man Who Owns The News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch” — hits shelves Feb. 17, 2009 for $27.95.

Here are a couple of things we’d like to know (in no particular order):
* Just how many more Dow Jones employees he plans to hire for its global expansion?