Postcards

How the power players do it - by Fortune senior editor at large Patricia Sellers

Rupert Murdoch on his divorce, succession, and his empire's future

April 10, 2014: 7:33 AM ET

In his first wide-ranging interview in five years, Rupert Murdoch talks about remaking his business, luring back his son Lachlan, divorcing Wendi Deng, and moving beyond a very trying past few years.

Murdoch in his office at News Corp. headquarters in Manhattan

Murdoch in his office at News Corp. headquarters in midtown Manhattan

FORTUNE -- "I had a very bad month in January and February. I had a fall in San Francisco. I fell on my head," says Rupert Murdoch in an exclusive interview with Fortune Magazine that covers the gamut of the media titan's latest challenges.

In the Q&A, released today and featured in Fortune's April 28 issue, Murdoch talks about splitting his global media conglomerate into two public companies, struggling to repair frayed relationships with his grown children, luring eldest son Lachlan back into the business, and enduring a high-profile divorce from Wendi Deng, after a 14-year marriage.

And even as he's coped with legal woes related to the phone-hacking scandal in his British newspaper business, Murdoch, who turned 83 in March, comes across as vigorous, candid about his troubles -- and ever opinionated about a broad array of topics from Facebook (FB) to Michael Bloomberg to the 2016 Presidential race.

Fortune senior editor at large Pattie Sellers talked with Murdoch in his News Corp. office in Manhattan in late March. Some highlights of the interview:

Murdoch reveals how he coaxed son Lachlan, who left News Corp. in 2005 over tensions with senior management, to return as non-executive chairman of both News Corp. (NWS) and 21st Century Fox (FOX), which holds the TV and movie assets that separated from the core newspaper operations last summer. Over a meal at the Allen & Co. conference last July in Sun Valley, Idaho, "Lachlan and [younger son] James and I had a very serious talk about how we can work as a team," Murdoch says. "We had two or three hours together. Lachlan was not not going to come back. It was a question of how we would work together?" Murdoch also talks about easing tensions with his daughter Elisabeth and his hopes for her to play a major role inside his companies, which have a combined stock-market value of more than $80 billion. Murdoch owns almost 40%, controls the voting stock, and calls the shots.

About adapting his newspapers to the digital age, Murdoch says that the New York Post, his money-losing daily tabloid, may exist only in digital form in 10 years. He expects the Wall Street Journal, which he bought as part of Dow Jones in 2007, to remain in print form longer.

While he's struggled to build data services beyond Dow Jones' Factiva, Murdoch greatly admires Bloomberg – both ex-New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and the multi-billion business he created. "Mike's got a virtual monopoly there," says Murdoch. "It's a very small market, a very elite market. I remember when he rang me one day to complain about some criticism in the Post. I said, 'I've just read Bloomberg View, and it absolutely lacerated me.' He said, 'Oh, nobody reads that.'

Murdoch explains why he's betting big on TV sports, with the new Fox Sports 1 cable network: ESPN is "a goldmine. It's an even bigger goldmine than Fox News." Not that Murdoch frets about Fox News: "No cable company in the world is going to drop it unless they want their houses burnt down," he says, Asked if Fox News' sometimes extreme right-wing views may have denigrated the U.S. political process and even hurt the Republican party, he replies, "I think it has absolutely saved it."

The 2016 Presidential election, Murdoch believes, "is between four or five people." He ranks Jeb Bush and Paul Ryan at the top of his list. Ryan, the conservative Congressman from Wisconsin who chairs the House Budget Committee, "is the straightest arrow I've ever met," he says.

Murdoch talks about trying to woo DreamWorks CEO Stacey Snider to 20th Century Fox, the film studio's plans for two (yes, two!) sequels to Avatar, and perhaps his greatest disappointment in almost 60 years of global empire-building: MySpace, which he bought in 2005 for $580 million, failed vs. Facebook. "It think it was one of our great screw-ups of all time," Murdoch says.

And on the personal front, Murdoch opens up for the first time publicly about his divorce, how he felt when he read Wendi Deng's alleged diary entries about other men ("I was shocked") and how he is now moving into "a new chapter." He talks about the 13-acre vineyard that he recently bought in California and his new 10,000-square-foot Manhattan apartment that came with a price tag only a billionaire can love: $57.25 million.

Click here for the full Fortune Q&A with Murdoch -- or read the new issue of Fortune, which has the full Q&A and my colleague Beth Kowitt's terrific cover cover story about Whole Foods (WFM). Buy the magazine. Keep print journalism alive!

  • Sandberg on GM chief Barra: Yes, she "leans in"

    Two of the world's most powerful women, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and GM CEO Mary Barra, seem to have different formulas for success. But they're more like-minded than you would think.

    FORTUNE -- It's a year this week since the launch of Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, and Facebook COO-turned-author Sheryl Sandberg is leaning in to her career-counsel crusade fiercely. Having sold 1.6 million books in 27 languages, MORE

    - Mar 11, 2014 8:49 AM ET
  • What Facebook's Sandberg shares with the Fed's next vice-chair

    Facebook exec David Fischer and his dad, Fed choice Stanley Fischer, are both well-suited to work for powerful women bosses.

    FORTUNE -- Sheryl Sandberg must be the most politically connected executive in Silicon Valley.

    There she was in Washington, D.C., last month when President Obama hosted a powwow with tech honchos at the White House.

    Fifteen years earlier, the Facebook (FB) COO served as chief of staff to Larry Summers when he was MORE

    - Jan 13, 2014 11:38 AM ET
  • Facebook exec's three lessons in brandbuilding

    FORTUNE -- Facebook's Carolyn Everson followed the advice of Sheryl Sandberg, her mentor, when she moved her family from New Jersey to London and took a job in Facebook's international business that needed filling.

    Everson leaned in. And so, for the past six months, she's been leading Facebook (FB) Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) in addition to doing her main  job as Facebook's VP of Global Marketing Solutions.Nothing is easy MORE

    - Jun 26, 2013 4:18 PM ET
  • Facebook expert: How to connect with the masses

    What the Cannes Film Festival is to Hollywood, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity has long been to Madison Avenue—and now to Silicon Valley too. Executives from Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOG) and Yahoo (YHOO) are here on the French Riviera, soaking up sun and connections with the marketing chiefs of Coca-Cola (KO), IBM (IBM), and lots of other Fortune 500 giants that have millions of dollars to spend.

    A MORE

    - Jun 19, 2013 12:00 PM ET
    Posted in:
  • Why we must keep running

    Jessica Shambora was a reporter at Fortune from 2008 until 2011 -- my great protegé and now a lifelong friend. Jess is now a marketing communications manager at Facebook (FB), but she's still a journalist to me. So when she texted me last night to tell me that she had finished the Boston Marathon and was shaken but okay, I asked her if she would share her take on the MORE

    - Apr 16, 2013 12:18 PM ET
  • Best advice from a Facebook star

    When Carolyn Everson, Facebook's (FB) VP of global marketing solutions, confronted a management void in Europe, she opted to fix the problem herself. She moved her family--husband Doug and twin daughters--from New Jersey to London.

    Now Everson is on the ground for six months, fortifying the European business, visiting international advertisers, and helping in the hunt for a new leader for the region. Last evening, during a quick trip home (she's MORE

    - Mar 28, 2013 2:55 PM ET
  • Advice from a male CEO: "We all need to Lean In"

    In the crazy media buildup to Monday's release of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, author/Facebook (FB) COO Sheryl Sandberg was surprised that men didn't chime into the public discourse. That changed in the past few days. PIMCO CEO Mohamed el-Erian wrote a wise commentary on Sandberg's crusade. I interviewed Sandberg about her message to men. Next week, I'll share with you my interview with Sandberg and MORE

    - Mar 15, 2013 11:07 AM ET
  • While Sheryl Sandberg Leans in, Marissa Mayer lies low

    A look at Silicon Valley's two most powerful women from a journalist who has known both for nearly a decade--and offers news about Mayer's controversial HR policy and nursery at Yahoo

    Never in the history of book marketing has there been a crusade quite like Sheryl Sandberg's. Last Thursday in New York, the Facebook (FB) COO hobnobbed with former U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, film director George Lucas and Barbara Walters MORE

    - Mar 11, 2013 3:37 PM ET
  • Facebook COO Sandberg: How to build a business

    So, Facebook (FB) knows how to grow. On Tuesday, the company that everyone loved to discount reported better-than-expected profits and a 32% increase in third-quarter revenue to nearly $1.3 billion. The stock is popping.

    Substantial credit goes to Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer and CEO Mark Zuckerberg's No. 2, who has learned a thing or two about scaling businesses. When Sandberg  joined her previous employer Google (GOOG) in 2001, that MORE

    - Oct 24, 2012 10:59 AM ET
Fortune's Most Powerful Women
Fortune's Most Powerful Women For the latest on the most influential women in business, philanthropy, government, and the arts, like us on Facebook.
Guest Posts
Fortune Most Powerful Women Fortune Most Powerful Women The rolodex that redefined power
Profile in The Washington Post
Sheryl Sandberg: Sheryl Sandberg: Don't leave before you leave
COO of Facebook
Wendy Clark Wendy Clark Exec learns firsthand how the homeless live
SVP of the Global Sparkling Brand Center at Coca-Cola
Video
Marissa Mayer's 3 biggest decisions as Yahoo CEO With company stock up over 100% since she began running the company 16 months ago, Mayer reflects on her choices to date. Watch
Chelsea Clinton on running for office: 'I don't know' The vice chairman of the Clinton Foundation talks about her diverse career path and growing up in the spotlight. Watch
MPWomen go Global

The Fortune/U.S. State Department Global Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership brings rising-star women from countries around the world to the U.S. for three-week mentorships with participants of the annual Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit - among them Ursula Burns of Xerox, Laura Lang of Time Inc., Marissa Mayer of Yahoo, and Tory Burch.

Read more

Current Issue
  • Give the gift of Fortune
  • Get the Fortune app
  • Subscribe
Powered by WordPress.com VIP.