I haven’t watched HBO’s The Tudors yet, but the Murdoch empire’s been providing a pretty good IRL substitute. Now that Lord Rupert has been reduced to playing feeble senility in front of the cameras, the infighting between his would-be heirs is ramping up — and so publicly!
Presumed heir James seems to be trying to avoid incarceration, or at least a thorough official investigation, by pleading ignorance. Unfortunately, the stockholders and financial analysts who’ve replaced the Tudor courtiers are far more repelled by stupidity than venality. “No, I was not in the least bit curious why my right-hand henchmen wanted to spend $700,000 of the company’s money paying off a victim of illegal voicemail interception; I figured 15 minutes and my rubber-stamp approval was all the attention the story deserved, and besides, that was three whole years ago so anything they might have inadvertantly let slip has long since dropped out of my memory queue” just isn’t being met with the hearty round of well-thats-all-right-then back-slapping Murdoch the Lesser had come to expect from his minions.
Extra points to the Guardian for picking the perfect photo header of Young James as a sniveling little cheesebag in a bespoke suit, and also their closing paragraph:
In separate evidence to the Commons liaison committee David Cameron conceded he became too close to NI executives and said he could “not guarantee that [he had] got absolutely right” his declaration of all meetings because it was difficult to recall all social occasions.
Nothing like having the Prime Minister admit, for the record, that he spent so much time partying with the Dirty Digger dynasty that his memory is all a blur of champagne wishes and caviar dreams.
With James looking such a poor risk, next in line for the throne should have been Elisabeth Murdoch and her kingmaker husband, Matthew Freud:
… Over the past quarter-century, Freud, 47, has built up the largest independent public relations firm in London, Freud Communications, predicated on the unrelenting cultivation of London’s most successful strivers. Proximity to power is Freud’s lifeblood. “Freud is a legendary networker,” says Danny Rogers, the editor-in-chief of PRWeek. “He combines business with politics with celebrity. It’s quite a powerful nexus.”…
And yet, as journalists and investigators have worked to unravel the knot of connections at the center of the phone-hacking scandal, Freud has largely kept his name out of the coverage. Which is impressive, because he is so responsible for lacing the Murdoch family into contemporary British society. “The Murdochs, in their nature, are not glamour-pusses,” says Michael Wolff, the author of the Murdoch biography The Man Who Owns the News. “The Murdochs in London are a Matthew Freud creation. It was Matthew who promoted these people into this incredibly rarefied status and built the social circle around them. He turned them into the Kennedys of London.”
Freud was able to plug the Murdochs into London’s clubby elite, meal-by-meal, party-by-party, even as he was profiting from their influence, thanks to his combination of ambition, business savvy, and family pedigree. His early encounters with celebrities took place while he was still in diapers. He was born in London in 1963, the youngest of five siblings in a wealthy and accomplished family. His father, Sir Clement Freud, was a famous writer, politician, broadcaster, and grandson of Sigmund. His uncle Lucian was the preeminent British painter of his time…
Not long ago it was a given among News Corp. watchers that James Murdoch would someday take control of the family business, which last year earned $2.74 billion in profit on $33.41 billion in revenue. Now the calculus of the Murdoch succession has changed. James’s handling of the phone-hacking mess has made his ascension look uncertain, and Elisabeth has emerged as a rival, so long as she can put to rest claims—including a shareholder lawsuit—that her father overpaid for her production company…
While working on an account for British Sky Broadcasting, Freud met Elisabeth Murdoch in 1997. The elder of three siblings from Rupert’s second marriage, Elisabeth had grown up in New York, gone to college at Vassar, and moved to the U.K. to work for her father. She was married to Elkin Pianim, a Ghanaian financier. After meeting Freud, Elisabeth left her husband. Freud left his wife.
During the courtship, puffy profiles of Elisabeth soon bubbled up. A new, chic Murdoch had arrived on the scene. Her father disapproved. “Rupert couldn’t stand Matthew,” says Wolff. “They are not at all similar. Rupert is the least smooth guy in the world. With Rupert, what you see is what you get. With Matthew, it’s the opposite.”
But the the old king’s young consort, Wendi Deng, has just wielded another master-stroke:
It was a relationship that began in political controversy but progressed to a secret family union: Tony Blair, it was revealed , is godfather to Rupert Murdoch’s nine-year-old daughter, Grace, the second youngest of his six children.
In a culmination of 15 years of political intimacy, the former Labour prime minister was present at the star-studded baptism of the child on the banks of the Jordan, at the spot where Jesus is said to have undergone the same ceremony, according to an article in Vogue magazine. With the Murdochs and their children dressed in white – and present at the invitation of Queen Rania of Jordan – the event was photographed in Hello! magazine, complete with an ethereal front cover image of a smiling Murdoch in an open-necked shirt.
But no mention was made of Blair’s participation, which was revealed only in a rare interview by Murdoch’s wife, Wendi Deng, in a forthcoming edition of Vogue.
Although she has traditionally kept a low profile, Deng’s interview comes after she catapulted herself into the public spotlight by leaping from a chair to lash out at a foam-pie thrower who attempted to target Murdoch during his questioning before the Commons culture, media and sport committee in July…
The involvement of Blair was admitted by Deng in the interview shortly before her husband flew to London to deal with the phone-hacking crisis in the wake of revelations that the News of the World had targeted the mobile phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
Deng, who said she was not sleeping because of the stress of dealing with the phone-hacking affair, added in the interview: “Of course, as Rupert’s wife, I think it’s unfair on him to be going through this. I worry about him being alone. He has no PR people advising him. He tells me not to come but I’m flying to London for the hearing. I want to be with him.”
The home-wrecking temptress from a distant empire can demand not only tabloid-worthy celebrities (“When the Jordanian baptism was originally reported by Hello!, it noted that actors Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, both friends of the Murdochs, were godparents to Grace and her sister Chloe.”), but high-ranking ministers of the (nominal) opposition, to attend upon her feasts!
Of course, she’s only doing for her beloved husband, that sweet trembly old dear, beset on all sides by traitors and lesser men. Not to mention her poor little daughters, who surely deserve to have the same advantages as their older half-siblings, whatever hateful bitter things might be said by King Rupert’s discarded earlier wives and his cranky nonegenarian mother…
It really does have a mock-medieval, fantasy-epic feel, doesn’t it? Too bad News of the World isn’t around to tap everyones’ phones and give us every juicy detail…
Does one have to be stupid to be rich? Or is the requisite characteristic, evil to the bone? I’m sure it’s possible that it’s both.
Does one have to be stupid to be rich? Or is the requisite characteristic, evil to the bone?
Nobody would describe Buffett or Soros as stupid; or for that matter Gates, Jobs or Ellison. I wouldn’t describe Rupert Murdoch as stupid.
Rupert Murdoch is evil to the bone, but the investment and software moguls referred to don’t strike me as having more than the normal human quota of evil. Of course, their ridiculous riches means that when they are bad they are horrid, as the old rhyme goes, but they don’t set out every morning to make the world a worse place, as Rupert certainly did in his prime.
I think there are two things here. One is the often observed decline of families’ abilities and morals over generations. Rupert’s father was, as far as I know, a ruthless newspaper man but a fine journalist, and although I wouldn’t agree with him about much he had some kind of moral compass. The second generation lost that; the third also lost the ability. I can think of many parallel cases in many industries.
The other thing is that the structure of modern businesses makes it incredibly easy for psychopaths to thrive in them, and in consequence they do. I really don’t know what is to be done about that.
Being rich tends to provide opportunities for evil to seduce the susceptible — and most people are susceptible.
Being born rich nearly guarantees susceptibility, because one will never have the experiences that teach empathy with ordinary people.
Unearned wealth is unschooled power, and
A Mom Anon
IMO,all that money insulates people from any semblance of reality. (see Mitt’s claim that 200K per yr is middle class)
The less you have to do to make the money,the more likely it is you are completely disconnected from humanity or empathy. There are exceptions I would guess,but when a system rewards shitty behavior it’s not a giant surprise when people behave in shitty ways. That same system often provides cover for the wealthy’s crimes too,so it’s even harder for them to get caught than the rest of us. There’s bonus points in there if you can get/bribe lawmakers to change the laws so your crimes are not even illegal anymore.
Thoughtful Black Co-Citizen
Jesus Christ, you inflict large globs of tarted up gossip writing on us before noon. Have you no decency ma’am? Have you no decency.
Seriously, go back and read the long excerpts and tell me it ever comes to a single conclusion.
Villago Delenda Est
It seems to me that when you have a hereditary aristocracy, the concept of “sins of the Father” needs to be part of the checks and balances of the system.
We imagine we’re a meritocracy and everyone should be judged by their actions, not the actions of their parents or grandparents, yet when you inherit all that money, you should inherit the means by which it was made.
Which means the Murdoch heirs are guilty by default. It goes with the territory.
@ Anne Laurie:
What is it with the clothing bigotry? Bespoke suits are not that uncommon and they are not exclusively the province of the wealthy. Are they expensive? Yes, they are, but not as much as you think, and they cost far less than a boat or an off-road vehicle. A matter of choice, nothing more.
Yeah, but the videogame sucks. I keep getting arrested by the London coppers every time I try to tap a phone. And even if you work your way up to one of the top levels, you’re bound to get stabbed in the back by one of the Murdoch children (Stealth +50, Deception +75) lurking behind the doors of the corporate suite liquor cabinets.
Thoughtful Black Co-Citizen
Like all good Presbyterians with money God wants Rupert to be rich. How He feels about tits on page 3 is not known but He does work in mysterious ways.
Showtime, not HBO.
I realize that the Murdochs are humans and I really don’t go in for the sins-of-the-fathers thing, but it would be really good for this country if the Murdock empire were to fade away. It would be good if Fox had to be sold to someone who was only normally dishonest and neurotic. It would be good if Roger Ailes and company were granted a lovely life in Outer Mongolia or somewhere.
Since they probably won’t go away voluntarily, perhaps the FSM will grant us an endless supply of little beasties to nip at their heels until they are forced out.
Bespoke suits: I used to sew my own clothes and am here to say that carefully tailored clothes are nice and they can work miracles if your body isn’t perfect. :-)
Of course one must delight in the decision by Mrs. Murdoch the Third to fillet Poodle Blair by revealing his unseemly role as godfather to the Murdoch’s daughter. (The ceremony itself, on the banks of the River Jordan, appears a tawdry spectacle). While the former Prime Minister and Labor leader is described as “one of Murdoch’s closest friends,” one does wonder why Mrs. Murdoch the Third chose this moment to disclose this particular family secret.
And then there’s this howler from the dutiful spouse: “I worry about him being alone. He has no PR people advising him.” An egregious lie, refuted by News Corporation’s own personnel in this Guardian article from July 16: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jul/16/rupert-murdoch-lawyers-pr-expert-newscorp
Can one really doubt that the thwarted foam-pie “attack’ on Murdoch during the parliamentary hearing was a stunt to distract media attention and garner public sympathy? A stunt that, all too sadly predictable, was entirely successful in its objective.
Actually the Tudors I believe is Showtime. Game Of Thrones is HBO’s new series.
I read the Guardian stories with enjoyment and feeling like I should pull up a comfortable chair and get the popcorn. And why is it when I read about rich people’s lives all I can think is “bleh, that’s the best you can do with all that money?”
I’m happy to read any gossip that reveals details about the evil heart of the Murdoch Empire. I reached my conclusions about the terrible toll Murdochism has taken on us — on the newspaper business, on public discourse and on the state of our nation — based on more than 20 years of empirical evidence.
Rupert’s father was an extraordinarily bad man, actually. The only saving grace about him was that he limited his activities to Australia.
@joel hanes: +++++++
Cool post. Did you ever apologize for the “worthless turd” “camp followers” insults?