20 May 2007

Sex, Scandal And The Murdoch Mob

There's a new sex scandal hitting the headlines at Rupert's New York Post:
Headlined "Lies & smears aimed at Post", the story detailed a statement made by a former Page Six staffer, Ian Spiegelman, which alleged the paper regularly accepted favours in return for favourable coverage...

Among the more lurid of Spiegelman's allegations, he says the Post's editor, Col Allan, an Australian, accepted free hospitality and sexual favours at Scores, New York's most famous strip club.

Spiegelman said: "Accepting freebies, graft and other favours was not only condoned by the company, but encouraged as a way to decrease the newspaper's out-of-pocket expenses."

"The favour banking system also extended to Murdoch's son Lachlan Murdoch, former publisher of the New York Post," suggesting that unflattering stories about Lachlan's celebrity friends were quashed.
The story includes allegations that Rupert Murdoch himself spiked stories that might threaten New Ltd's Chinese business deals. A front page New York Times article this weekend suggested the latest scandal could be enough to sink Murdoch's bid for the WSJ:
"Mr. Murdoch has been trying to persuade the family that controls Dow Jones that he stands for the same kind of august journalism that it does, and that his journalists adhere to high standards.

"The harshest criticism of Mr. Murdoch from within Dow Jones has been that he is willing to contort his coverage of the news to suit his business needs, in particular that he has blocked reporting unflattering to the government of China. He has invested heavily in satellite television there and wants to remain in Beijing’s favor."
OTOH, it's not like the Bancrofts really needed further proof of Murdoch's low ethics. A little research would have been enough.

For example, Murdoch once ordered Harold Evans, later ousted as Sunday Times editor, to provide more sports pages at the expense of financial coverage, saying:
"What do you want this (garbage) for, anyway? Two pages is plenty for business news."
And Mudoch's early papers reaped brofits with hard-sell pictures of sexy women and headlines like this:
“Leper Rapes Virgin, Gives Birth To Monster Baby.”
Of course, that sort of thing might be enticing to some younger members of the Bancroft family!
On her MySpace website, 30-year-old Jerrycha Steele poses topless in a black and white photo, showing only her back on which sits a tribal-inspired tattoo.

Among her interests include partying, snowmobiling, and roller-derby - a contact sport where players on rollerskates try to jostle their way past each other on a circuit.

She has a weakness for shoes and hand-bags, loves fast boats and dancing. She has a tattoo on the base of her spine and a pierced belly button.
Look out, Paris Hilton! Media whores incoming from all sides!

Speaking of younger members, Richard Siklos at IHT takes a good look at the kids in the Murdoch clan:
Elisabeth, known as Liz, owns a burgeoning TV production business in London and is credited with urging her father to buy the U.S. rights to the show that became "American Idol," the most popular show on television, which airs on News Corp.'s Fox network. Lachlan, who grew up in the company's Australian newspaper arm, is on the company's board of directors, and has begun investing in his own media ventures. And James, chief executive of British Sky Broadcasting, is considered by observers both inside and out of the company as the most likely of Murdoch's children to eventually succeed him at the top of the $26-billion-a-year conglomerate.

Others in the family play a role also. Prudence, 48, Murdoch's eldest daughter from his first marriage, is married to a senior executive with the company's Australian newspaper business. And Murdoch's wife Wendi, who was born in China, has taken an interest in the company's ventures there and helped negotiate the launch of the company's MySpace Web business with Chinese partners...

What News Corp. might look like once Murdoch is no longer at the company's helm is unknown, but Murdoch's four eldest children are bound by a trust to keep the company together for decades, according to people familiar with its terms.

"It's easy for the kids to be united right now, but give it 10 to 20 years as their interests diverge and the reality of shared power becomes more restricting," Chenoweth said.

Murdoch has said he would eventually like one of his children to succeed him at the company, but since he has not designated a successor such a decision would fall to the company's board...

The family's 30 percent stake is expected to increase to 38 percent when the News Corporation soon completes a transaction it announced to sell DirecTV to Liberty Media, giving Murdoch the most solid grip on the company's control that the family has had for years.

As a consequence of his 1999 divorce from his second wife, Anna Murdoch Mann, Murdoch's four grown children were given clear and equal eventual control over the Harris Trust. While they were willing to grant their father's wish that their new half-sisters be equal financial partners in the trust, the children and Mann did not want to concede any decision-making control - or further dilute their interests in the trust if Murdoch had any further children.

After several chilly months, the family quietly settled the dispute without lawyers or another intermediary. As part of the resolution, each of the Murdoch children was granted $100 million worth of News Corp. stock from the trust for their personal use, in a distribution that occurred earlier this year.
And as long as we are talking about News Ltd, it's interesting that MySpace is now the most visited site on the net, accounting for a whopping 16% of all page views. And yes, they are getting into politics...

UPDATE: Siklos last week had another article of interest, profiling Murdoch the man. This quote jumped out at me:
Asked if even now he doesn’t consider himself an elite, Mr. Murdoch shakes his head. “No, I’m going to keep myself as much of an outsider as possible,” he says. “We just don’t join clubs.”
Heh. No "clubs"? Really? So who is "we"? Murdoch seems to see his company, and his family, as an empire unto itself.

Or what about this quip:
Mr. Murdoch had planned to view some TV pilots, but never got around to it as he, Mr. Thomson and his executive vice president of corporate affairs, Gary Ginsberg, sat in his study and talked into the night about politics and world affairs. At one point, Mr. Murdoch, wearing a beige cardigan, glanced at a screen tuned to his news channel.

“Fair and balanced,” he declared, repeating the Fox News motto, which he meant as a playful jab at Mr. Ginsberg, who worked in the Clinton administration.
More here.