And sincere ones too. Reaching 80 is a real landmark, and not so many media tycoons still in harness make it. And Rupert Murdoch is still very much at work, currently organizing the purchase of Sky in the UK with the delicate manipulation of the regulator and the politicians of which he is past master. This is a Tribute Blog, not an Obituary. I come to praise him, not to bury him. It is all too easy for the literati to look down on him and refer to his dumbing down of media properties: I could equally argue that he took mediocrity and created, in his prime, products that were genuinely popular and that people wanted. Rather than throwing brickbats I would like to explore some things that still seem strange to me, in light of the fact that once the Sky deal is completed News International/News Corporation will emerge as one of the very largest media corporations on Earth, comparable in size to very different players like Bertelsmann and Thomson Reuters. So, if I found the great man at the front door this evening I would invite him in, pour him a celebratory cognac, and ask:

Three questions late at night are quite enough for a man of your age, so raise a glass again and lets share that really funny anecdote from last week. You know the one, Sir. About how the dreadful Brits wanted to stop you buying the rest, around 60%, of Sky that you did not own and the UK Business Secretary, an unfortunate called Cable (should have been called Satellite), had a foot in mouth moment with two winsome journelettes (as we would call them if hey worked for the Sun!) and boasted that he would thwart your wishes. At that moment you must have known you had them cold. One quick strategy twist and the Culture Secretary was announcing that he had decided to approve the deal, subject to your agreement to give up total ownership of Sky News. Sky News (where you will still have 39%) was not the jewel in the crown. Sky News has no chance of survival on its own, As a business sector, Sky News contributes nothing to Sky, except losses. So you now have the UK government giving you permission to proceed – subject only to you leaving the majority of the losses to the existing shareholders. Its a masterstroke, Sir. You have never been on better form.

Time to say goodbye now. As I show him to the door, my questions left hanging in the air, I reflect that I have only ever seen one media magnate close up, and his initials were also RM. Strangely, whatever may be said of Robert Maxwell, the thing he did get was the vital importance of the digital in the publishing worlds that he dominated. And he too was, in every way, an Enigma.


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  1. David Worlock | Developing digital strategies for the information marketplace | Supporting the migration of information providers and content players into the networked services world of the future. on July 8, 2011 21:47

    […] This is at once humiliating and ungrateful. Only recently I sent Rupert a birthday card ( I wonder if compensation will be offered to the bruised egos of those of us whose voicemail did […]