When Rupert Murdoch bought the News of the World, his first British paper, he was asked if he planned to stick his oar into its editorial output. “I did not come all this way not to interfere,” the Australian tycoon barked. How exactly he would interfere became clear with the purchase of his second paper, The Sun, whose editor Larry Lamb received the simple edict: “I want a tearaway paper with lots of tits in it.”
The return of Succession, back for its third season, always encourages fresh comparisons between its salty media baron, Logan Roy, and Murdoch. The show’s creators insist they have not based their character on Murdoch. But they have mined his life for details with such precision that some of the answers Murdoch gave to the Leveson inquiry in 2011 were repeated by Roy during a fictional grilling over wrongdoing in his media empire. The show is a case of art imitating life, a portrayal of the billionaires who sleep more frequently on private jets than in beds and file lawsuits more casually than they visit the dentist, for whom Earth is not a planet to be explored but eaten.
“I’ll grind his fucking bones to make my bread,” barks Logan in one of the latest episodes. It could just as easily have been Murdoch, who once said: “You can’t be an outsider and be successful over 30 years without leaving a certain amount of scar tissue around the place.” Alastair Campbell, the svengali of spin, says the real Murdoch doesn’t swear as much as his fictional counterpart. In an article for the Evening Standard, Campbell recalled how Murdoch even upbraided his son James for swearing in front of the prime minister, then Tony Blair. “We both assured them Tony had heard far worse,” Campbell said.
Murdoch likes to say that he’s not driven by money but the love of the job. “It’s nice to have money but I don’t live high,” he once said. “What I enjoy is running the business.” It’s all relative. As far as billionaires go, Murdoch might live more humbly than, say, the Malaysian business magnate Robert Kuok, who owns History Supreme, the most expensive yacht in the world, which cost $4.8 billion and is made out of 10,000 kilograms of solid gold and platinum and features walls made of meteorite rock and a statue made of the bones of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. But he’s not exactly a hermit either.
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