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Murdoch biographer says family will be re-elected . . . for the last time


By Noel Young, Correspondent

October 18, 2011 | 4 min read

Michael Wolff , author of The Man Who Owns the News, a biography of Rupert Murdoch, is leaving his role as editorial director of US magazine Adweek amid speculation that his departure is not unconnected with his aggressive coverage of the News International phone hacking scandal.

Rupert Murdoch

Right now on the Adweek website, Wolff gives his verdict on whether the Murdoch family could really be kicked of the board at News Corp's annual meeting on Friday in Los Angeles.

To put you out of your suspense, Wolff starts by saying, "It is impossible for the Murdochs to be voted off the board . . .as several of the most influential shareholder advisor groups have advocated. With their own shares and those shareholders who have committed to voting with them, the Murdochs have the wherewithal to re-elect themselves, and their cronies, to the board."

Then comes the kicker, "Yet I don’t know anyone who is closely engaged with the company who believes that this heretofore impregnable voting majority can actually protect the Murdoch family—there is an inexorability to what has engulfed this company."

Wolff points out that Chase Carey, the company’s COO, has even taken to using the line, “My name is Carey not Murdoch.”

"The end is less in question than the timing of the end and the nature of the end. There is in fact quite a sense of awe about what is happening here," he writes.

The overwhelming consensus within the company and among News Corp. and Murdoch partisans is "that the whole mess is on James Murdoch." says Wolff.

"It’s his fault, and good riddance. He’s the fall guy. He mishandled the situation. He will not become the CEO of News Corp - not now, not soon, not ever."

Wolff talks about the lawsuits. "Of the more than 4,000 phones that were hacked, how many $700,000, or $1 million, or $2 or $3 million settlements can the company shoulder? "

And on prosecutions in the U.S., Wolff says,"One view inside News Corp. is that the only thing that can stave off the Justice Department is a Republican victory in 2012. On the other hand, it is this prospect that is also galvanizing the Justuce Department's movement of the case."

Wolff talks of the vast company "that had no part of the British newspaper tabloid business, and then there is the part that did — the Murdoch part.

"And if the blame falls on James, a sense of something like pity has coalesced around Rupert—or, even, a sense of tragedy: All of his accomplishments will be brought down by this."

He says News Corp.’s Murdoch-led push into the education business in the US has been largely stopped in its tracks because education businesses need support of local and state politicians—"and the Murdoch name makes politicians shiver."

Wolff's biography of Rupert Murdoch was extremely thorough - based on nine months of interviews with Murdoch and his family and associates.

Friday’s annual shareholders meeting, the author now says, "will unfold in a scripted sense—albeit with Rupert looking ever-more pained and uncomfortable. The Murdoch family and its allies will vote their shares and re-elect the Murdochs to the board. It will all go as planned."

But, says Wolff, for the last time.

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