Thursday, June 28, 2007

Why Do We Destroy The Things We Love By Seeking To Change Them?

"Why would I spend $5 billion for something in order to wreck it?"
- Rupert Murdoch
Sheer fucking EGO, perhaps?

Wall Street Journal reporters across the country chose not to show up for work today, citing threats to their independence and credibility. If Murdoch get's the Journal, its share price may rise but its reputation will immediately drop. So what will he really gain?

The NYT reports that Rupert Murdoch is now poised to gain control of the WSJ editorial as well as the paper. Here's Murdoch's business plan:
On his plans for the Journal: "What if, at the Journal, we spent $100 million a year hiring all the best business journalists in the world? Say 200 of them. And spent some money on establishing the brand but go global … and then you make it free, online only. No printing plants, no paper, no trucks. How long would it take for the advertising to come? It would be successful, it would work and you’d make … a little bit of money."
But don't worry, folks, the Murdoch Journal won't be biased! Right, Rupert?
"CNN is pretty consistently on the left, if you look at their choice of stories, what they play up. It’s not what they say, it’s what they highlight … and if you look at our general news, do we put on things which favor the right rather than the left? I don’t know … we don’t think we do. We’ve always insisted we don’t. I don’t think we do. Aw, it’s subjective. Neither side admits it."
CNN consistently on the left? Is he joking? Sadly, I don't think so.

But hopefully Murdoch was joking when he said this:
"When the Journal gets its Page 3 girls, we’ll make sure they have MBAs."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

What Would Pontius Pilate Do?

Seems like the Bancrofts may be ready to cave in to Murdoch. First they handed negotiations over to the board of Dow Jones, now the board seems to have found a magic solution:
Dow Jones & Co and News Corp have agreed broadly on measures to protect the editorial independence of The Wall Street Journal under ownership by Rupert Murdoch's media conglomerate, clearing away a major hurdle in the way of a deal, a source says...

So far no other serious bidders have emerged, meaning that Murdoch could clinch ownership of Dow Jones if he satisfies the concerns held by the board and the Bancroft family that the Journal remain free from corporate interference...

Besides the Journal, Dow Jones also owns Dow Jones Newswires, the Factiva news database, Barron's, a group of community newspapers and several well-known stock market indicators including the Dow Jones industrial average.

News Corp owns the Fox broadcast network, Fox News Channel, newspapers in the United Kingdom, Murdoch's native Australia and the New York Post, the Twentieth Century Fox movie and TV studio and MySpace, the online social hangout site.

The Bancroft family has controlled Dow Jones for more than a century.
Dow Jones shares climbed 2.2% on this news. Maybe just a bit of quick profiteering for "the source"? But given the low ethical standard exhibited by the Bancrofts through their extraordinarily low-class editorialising, I suspect Murdoch's money will soon allay all their much-publicised fears about compromising quality journalism. I think the WSJ reporters have managed to win Pulitzers mostly because the Bancrofts are too lazy to worry about anything but their precious editorial. The end is nigh.

Ownership by Murdoch will spell the end of an era for the once-highly-respected WSJ and Dow Jones, but the fall from grace has been coming for some time now. For me, the WSJ reached an all-time low when President George W. Bush quoted the Fadhil brother's neocon-backed Iraq The Model blog as proof of success in Iraq. Bush quoted directly from a Wall Street Journal piece authored by the Fadhils. And there was me thinking the WSJ was plagiarizing the Fadhils, when actually they were paying the bastards! Arthur "Good News From Iraq" Chrenkoff was another WSJ favourite before his credentials got blown by ABC's MediaWatch.

UPDATE: Here's a thought. What if the Bancrofts asked their friend Mr. Sulzberger to sick his best NYT journos onto Murdoch and see what they could come up with? What if the current NYT series on Murdoch is the worst they could find, and what if the Bancrofts are therefore now prepared to sign on the dotted line? Hmmn?

Of course, there will still be some strong dissenters within the Bancroft family, and it's possible even a small minority could scuttle the deal. I'm hoping they invoke the original Dow Jones family charter, which explicitly states that heirs to the fortune have an obligation to uphold high quality journalism - that could result in a law case where Murdoch's journalism standards are put before a jury! Wouldn't that be fun?

New York Times Examines Murdoch's China Dealings

Here's the much-anticipated Times piece: Murdoch’s Dealings in China: It’s Business, and It’s Personal.
Regulatory barriers and management missteps have thwarted Mr. Murdoch’s hopes of big profits in China. He has said his local business hit a “brick wall” after a bid to corral prime-time broadcasting rights fell apart in 2005, costing him tens of millions of dollars...

Mr. Murdoch cooperates closely with China’s censors and state broadcasters, several people who worked for him in China say. He cultivates political ties that he hopes will insulate his business ventures from regulatory interference, these people say.

In speeches and interviews, Mr. Murdoch often supports the policies of Chinese leaders and attacks their critics... His courtship has made him the Chinese leadership’s favorite foreign media baron.
The big story is about how News Ltd, and MySpace in particular, bends over backwards to help the Chinese government impose restrictions on free speech. In return for Murdoch's compliance, "television channels affiliated with Mr. Murdoch beam more programming into China than any other foreign media group."

The Gawker is impressed:
Based on yesterday's sorry spectacle we'd be inclined to suspect that it is indeed an attempt to damage Murdoch's prospects of taking over the Wall Street Journal. But today's article is legitimate coverage of a legitimate story, delivered professionally and offering the kind of analysis and information newspapers are supposed to provide. (We would have liked more sexy Wendi stuff, but you can't have everything.)
This NYT section proves that Wendi's involvement with Rupert's business has been more than he sometimes admits:
By the late 1990s, Mr. Murdoch was traveling several times a year to the country. He was often joined by Wendi Murdoch, who left her formal position in the company but continued to scout for investments in China and participate in strategy decisions there, several people who worked for the News Corporation said.

One of her roles: introducing her husband to Chinese entrepreneurs. Many of them had received business degrees in the United States, as she had at Yale.

The Murdochs invested about $150 million in half a dozen start-up Internet and telecom companies at the height of the Internet bubble between 1999 and 2001. Only one, Netcom, returned an appreciable investment profit, two former News Corporation executives said.

But one of the entrepreneurs the Murdochs befriended during the investment spree was Jiang Mianheng, the son of President Jiang. Ms. Murdoch and some other News Corporation employees argued internally that the younger Mr. Jiang could help Star distribute its broadcasts more widely, two former News Corporation executives said.

It is unclear what role, if any, Mr. Jiang played. But in 2002, the company became the first foreign broadcaster to receive “landing rights” to sell programs to cable systems in Guangdong Province, near Hong Kong.
My wife is Japanese, so I know how important it can be for a Westerner to have good advice on Eastern cultural idiosyncracies! It wasn't long before Murdoch had signed up a media and stock market entrepreneur named Ding Yuchen, whose father was the Communist Party's propaganda chief.
A second partner was the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League, considered the political power base of China’s new top leader, Hu Jintao.
Murdoch gained concessions, but pushed too hard and ended up making a loss of between $30 and $60 million. But he maintained the good favour of the political elite, and his wife seems to have opened a back door to further profits:
Wendi Murdoch has stepped up her role in China. She plotted a strategy for the News Corporation’s social networking site, MySpace, to enter the Chinese market, people involved with the company said. The News Corporation decided to license the MySpace name to a local consortium of investors organized by Ms. Murdoch.

As a local venture, MySpace China, which began operations in the spring, abides by domestic censorship laws and the “self discipline” regime that governs proprietors of Chinese Web sites. Every page on the site has a link allowing users or monitors to “report inappropriate information” to the authorities.
This news was also interesting:
Journalist and author Seth Faison, who covered the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre for Hong Kong's South China Morning Post when Mr Murdoch owned it, said in a radio interview last week that a News executive pressed him to "tone down" coverage because the company was trying to negotiate a television deal with Beijing at the time.
Given how Wendi Deng has accomodated Chinese authorities in MySpace, I wonder what she thinks about her husband's ethics-free political opportunism? If a reporter asks her to comment on Tiananmen Square, I wonder if she would have the "good sense" to keep quiet, or the courage to speak up? I doubt she has ever had much of a political awakening - so far, it's all been bright lights and big wallets - but now would be a good time.

Murdoch might argue that he is just a businessman trying to straddle both sides of the globalisation divide, and that he conforms to Chinese government regulations just as he does with US and European ones. But as yesterday's NYT story showed, Murdoch frequently pushes the barriers and forces Western governments to cede major concessions on matters of law. He can't get away with that (yet) in China, so he is playing nice.

Whichever way you look at it, the only thing that seems to matter to Murdoch is the profit margin. And that is the big problem with News Ltd: journalism has to be about more than just profiteering, or it's nothing. If a reader cannot be sure that what they are reading (or hearing or seeing) is the unvarnished truth, then they will go elsewhere for the answers. Murdoch is not just dragging journalism down to the level of popular entertainment, he is also prostituting major bastions of quality journalism (including the UK Times, and the WSJ if he can get it). The result is that business-savvy politicians who are "tight" with Murdoch get free reign to do as they please, without proper scrutiny. And that, my friends, is the slippery path to outright Fascism.

It's ironic that the Chinese Communist Party should be embracing such a beast, but obviously their instincts for authoritarian overkill have now combined with a widespread lust for personal profit. The idealistic visions of Marx and Lenin (such as they were) have been long forgotten. Now it's all just spin and power games. Welcome to the New World of globalised corporate profiteering.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Murdoch Successfully Intimidates The New York Times? Maybe Not

As promised, today The New York Times goes after Rupert Murdoch in a 6-page exposé. Unfortunately, it's not the big bombshell some of us had hoped for - apparently because the Times lawyers had a field day with it. But there could be more to come:
The Drudge Report, reported on June 22, based on “insider” knowledge, that the forthcoming piece was an “AGGRESSIVE' EXAMINATION ON MURDOCH, HIS ASIAN WIFE, AND ATTEMPTS TO EXPAND HIS MEDIA EMPIRE...”

However, neither Mr. Murdoch’s wife Wendi Deng, nor or his business interests in China, made it into today’s 3,800-word piece. And Mr. Kahn, who multiple sources informed The Observer was looking into Murdoch, was not listed among the contributing reporters.

“I've written a piece on Murdoch in China that should appear shortly,” Mr. Kahn told The Observer, via email.

So, apparently, The Times isn’t done with Murdoch just yet.
The New Yorker also has a piece out today(even longer), and Slate has a review of the blogosphere's early reactions to both. The Gawker has this to say:
The Times article is serviceable but no more; we can't understand why the organization expended so many resources for such a meager result.
That's probably a bit harsh: there are lots of juicy details in the NYT piece, and surely something new for nearly every reader to savour. Here's a taste from The Times:
His vast media holdings give him a gamut of tools — not just campaign contributions, but also jobs for former government officials and media exposure that promotes allies while attacking adversaries, sometimes viciously — all of which he has used to further his financial interests and establish his legitimacy in the United States, interviews and government records show...

From his beginnings as a proprietor of a single Australian newspaper, Mr. Murdoch now commands a news, entertainment and Internet enterprise whose $68 billion value slightly exceeds that of the Walt Disney Company.

The American newspaper industry has never seen a publisher quite like him. Mr. Murdoch has long been a pivotal figure in England and Australia, and in the dozen years since he has moved his base of operations to this country, he has insinuated himself into the political and financial fabric of the United States. His businesses have thrived in a highly regulated environment in part because of his remarkable ability to mold the rules to fit his needs...

Mr. Murdoch has an army of outside lobbyists, who have reported being paid more than $11 million since 1998 to address issues as diverse as trade relations, programming decency and Internet regulation.

One firm focuses almost exclusively on parts of the tax code that affect the News Corporation. By taking advantage of a provision in the law that allows expanding companies like Mr. Murdoch’s to defer taxes to future years, the News Corporation paid no federal taxes in two of the last four years, and in the other two it paid only a fraction of what it otherwise would have owed. During that time, Securities and Exchange Commission records show, the News Corporation’s domestic pretax profits topped $9.4 billion.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Internet Entrepreneur Who Started MySpace Now Wants To Buy Dow Jones

Look out, Rupert, here comes yet another challenger:
An investment group led by Internet entrepreneur Brad Greenspan will seek a non-controlling stake in Dow Jones through a "Dutch auction."

Greenspan, the former chief executive of the parent company of social-networking site MySpace, says in a letter to the board of directors at Dow Jones that he will buy about 25% of Dow Jones common stock at $60 a share.
Or is this just some dude seeking free publicity?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Wendi Hits Nice for Packer Nuptials

Another day, another party. That's Wendy Deng in the white hat, with daughters Chloe and Grace and their nannies, heading into the Hotel du Cap Eden Roc. Oddly enough, the Packers are long-time rivals of the Murdochs, with the two families battling to dominate Australian media for the past few generations. But the Packer's had shares in Foxtel and Murdoch had shares in Fairfax, so it's all been very inter-bred, if you know what I mean. Who's going to worry about bygones? Especially now that James Packer has sold the old Goanna's media empire down the creek.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Today's The Day... Wendi Deng Revealed!

Eric Ellis' profile of Wendi Deng Murdoch is finally out in today's issue of The Monthly. Unfortunately, the story is not available online, so I will have to go out and buy a copy ASAP [UPDATE BELOW]. Meanwhile, here's the blurb:
In “Wendi Deng Murdoch”, renowned journalist Eric Ellis profiles the wife of media mogul Rupert Murdoch. From her early life in austere communist China, her time as a student in Los Angeles and her subsequent swift rise in News Corporation’s Star TV, in Hong Kong, to her recent involvement in the News-owned community website MySpace, this is the story of a person both ambitious and disarming, intelligent and charming. Avoiding salacity in favour of far-ranging, detailed investigation, Ellis offers an even-handed summation of the life of a highly important yet scarcely known person, and of her role in News Corporation.
"Even-handed"? Who wants even-handed? This is MURDOCH we are dealing with - when did HE ever give anyone an "even-handed" profile?

Just to show how Fair And Balanced they are, The Monthly online also offers a couple of "even-handed" extracts. Here's the positive one:
If she is assuming a grander role for herself at News, can Wendi deliver China to her husband? [Former Star CEO] Gary Davey says that at the very least she’d be an improvement on her predecessors. Over the years, he explains, News has been inundated with fixers, influence-brokers and spruikers promising riches in China but not delivering. ‘We’d have two or three a day,’ he remembers, ‘members of the politburo who’d show up with their hands out. It was just revolting. It’s all very well having the connections and the guanxi [influence] and all of that nonsense, but most of the guys who are in that racket wouldn’t have a bloody clue about how to run a business.’ Wendi is different, Davey says, bringing to the role an understanding of the culture and language, and also ‘really intense business nous, one of the missing pieces of the China puzzle’.
And here's the negative one (pretty mild, IMHO):
“‘There is no one in [News Corporation] with Rupert’s vision or breadth of interest,’ warns Andrew Neil, a former senior Murdoch employee … ‘Wendi has two young kids to look after, but everybody’s view is that she is biding her time. She keeps her hand in as to what is going on. He’s very close to her. Everybody expects to see her as a rising player. From everything I hear about her, underestimating her would be very foolish, particularly in a post-Rupert world. She’ll want to be there when the [company] carve-up happens, and she’s got two kids who are increasingly being cut in to the post-Rupert pie,’ says Neil.”
Let's hope there's more meat in the hardcopy. Stay tuned...

UPDATE: Well, I got hold of the Monthly and quickly read the article. First impression is mild disappointment, as in: "What was all the fuss about"?

Remember, the Fairfax press commissioned this article at some considerable expense - the author, Eric Ellis, has clearly travelled far and wide to track down his sources and investigate Deng's past lives - but then they decided to spike it rather than incurr the wrath of Rupert Murdoch (who was a minority Fairfax shareholder at the time). Why they did so is even more perplexing now, given that there is really nothing explosive here. I can only assume that Murdoch is rabidly protective of his new bride, and determined to extinguish any media coverage of her. So did Fairfax cave to his pressure? Or did they do a deal: we'll spike the story if you sell your shares. Either that, or Fairfax sent Ellis on a fishing trip and threw the catch away when he came home without the whopper catch they were counting on.

There are some interesting nuggets, of course. But most of the article is information that is already publicly available, and has been published on this blog (after cut-and-pasting from one site or another). In fact, there are a few stories here that Ellis barely touched (or did not touch at all). Anyway, here are a few nuggets from the Monthly article that are not noted elsewhere on this blog:

1. Until the details were published in the Wall Street Journal, Murdoch apparently did not know much about Deng's past, including the affair and marriage with Jake Cherry, which secured her a US visa. One WSJ journo describes Murdoch as "ashen-faced" at their next meeting. As Ellis writes, Murdoch got a rude taste of his own tabloid journalism medicine. I can't help wondering if that has anything to do with his current bid for the Journal?

2. Deng is a minor celebrity in China, though there are very mixed feelings about her. One Chinese fan runs a couple of Wendi Deng websites - and, both with identical data. The info is in Chinese only, but seems to be nothing more than money-making celebrity-watching.

3. Deng's former best friend complains that she hasn't heard from Wendi in ten years. But here childhood past doesn't seem too suspicious. Nothing about high-level Communist Party connections, or even the spy allegations once hinted at in Crikey.

All in all, I would say the article paints a fairly favourable portrait of Deng as an intelligent, ambitious girl with no sense of shame. Or, as somebody put it in the article, little sense of "self-awareness". She worked her way up the corporate ladder by dancing into the offices of hand-picked executives with a cutesy, innocent girl routine which she "perfected" with practice. But few of her ex-colleagues seem to harbour any ill feelings towards her. Maybe that's just how things work in the Murdoch media empire?

UPDATE 2: 24 hours later and this story appears to have been met with a stony silence in the media. Despite previous interest from Slate, the Telegraph and other outlets, nobody has yet run a story on Deng. Is that fear I smell?

Meanwhile, Wendi Deng's husband is cutting jobs at his four UK papers to help finance his exorbitant bid for the WSJ.
The cuts, which follow a number of previous redundancies, mirrored moves by all UK newspaper groups, News International Executive Chairman Les Hinton said in a statement to senior staff.

"This is necessary because newspaper revenues are coming under pressure at a time when other costs are rising and we are also investing in digital media," Hinton said.
Which reminds me that there is another excellent article in The Monthly, “War of Words”, by Eric Beecher:
“It would be difficult to overstate the serious media’s anxiety about the future of quality journalism. This anxiety stems from an old dilemma – is journalism a public trust or a business? – overlaid on a new dilemma: that as the internet matures into a successful commercial medium, the funding model for quality commercial journalism is collapsing. This is no longer simply a debate about the role of press barons like Rupert Murdoch. It is now about whether the owners of quality commercial journalism – predominantly the owners of the world’s major newspapers – are prepared to accept lower profits and diminished share prices in order to continue funding costly but important journalism. There can only be one conclusion: in your dreams.”
UPDATE 3: Ellis has a website at Eric Ellis dot com, which includes a PDF of his letter to ABC's MediaWatch. I've asked him to confirm that no juicy details were edited out of the version published in The Monthly.

UPDATE 4: Eric Ellis never replied to my email. You can find the Chinese version of his Deng article here - worth a look for the photos alone, which are not the same as those in the Monthly version.

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Public's Enemy Hits Bumps In The Road

The Gawker compares Murdoch's WSJ bid with "You're Gonna Get Yours," the lead cut from Public Enemy's Yo! Bum Rush The Show:
Murdoch is, of course, the "subject of suckers, object of hate," in spite of the fact that his Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight (News Corp.) is indeed "fly" and "bulletproof." And while suckers (Journal staffers) may have the "nerve and gall to talk about" the car "while they're walking tall," his two-thirds-over premium bid for Dow Jones (which includes The Wall Street Journal, "the ultimate homeboy car" of business journalism), does indeed "blow them all away."

While certain elder members of the Bancroft clan did "call [him] a punk," Murdoch "took their girls and got them to thrill [him]." Today, when the Bancrofts step outside and get in his ride, Murdoch may try to dazzle them with "tinted windows"—so superbad — but beware, whatever he says, eventually he'll "rub his boomerang because he's feeling proud," and will not even recall what promises he made about editorial independence 'cause his radio's loud. His Ninety-Eight Oldsmobile's like good stuff.
But Murdoch's fly machine is already hitting a few bumps in the road.

For starters, the union representing Dow Jones & Co. has retained financial advisors to look for alternatives to the News Corp. bid.

And here's some interesting analysis from the International Herald Tribune, suggesting even a small minority of the Bancrofts could block a sale:
Under Dow Jones rules, Class B shares have 10 votes per share, while Class A shares, the ones traded on the New York Stock Exchange, have but one vote. But when Class B shares are sold, they become Class A shares, and lose their special voting rights.

There are now more than 20 million Class B shares outstanding, 82 percent of them controlled by the Bancroft family and another 6 percent controlled by the Ottaway family, which has strongly opposed a sale to Murdoch. There are 63.7 million Class A shares...

Buying some Class B shares would simply raise the relative voting power of the remaining Class B shares.

At least theoretically, investors owning just 9.1 percent of the stock, or 7.6 million shares, could control the company if those were the only Class B shares left outstanding after the other shares were sold to Murdoch.
Meanwhile, Murdoch refuses to give the Bancroft family control of any editorial-oversight board:
That kind of board should comprise "people with absolutely no business connections to me nor the family," Murdoch said, according to the Journal. He added the family "can't sell [Dow Jones] and keep it" by joining a newly created board. "I can't put down $5 billion of my shareholders' money and not be able to run the business."

But he repeated that he has "no plans to change anything" on the news side of the paper.
Hmnn. He is happy to hand control of the editorial to an "independent" board, but not to the Bancrofts, because he needs to keep control. Ri-i-ight...

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Divide And Conquer: Bancrofts In Disarray

Mark Coultan has been reading the WSJ and the NYT, so you and I don't have to:
The New York Times reported that many younger family members had not been consulted after the initial offer, and that some still don't know how the 52 per cent figure was calculated.

The newspaper said that in discussions since then, they had voiced their feelings about what they saw as a family tradition of treating adults in the younger generation like children.

There was also resentment of the older generations getting most of the income from the family's holdings. Others believe Dow Jones has withered because it has paid out too much of its profits in dividends, and failed to invest in growth, something of which Mr Murdoch could never be accused.

The change in the family's position came about partly through a change of heart by two influential members.

According to The Wall Street Journal (which has the most thorough coverage in the US of its own future), Leslie Hill, a Dow Jones director and a former airline pilot, had confided to family members and others that she did not feel comfortable with her initial rebuttal of Mr Murdoch's offer.

The Journal also reported another family member, Elizabeth Steele, who is also on the Dow Jones board, as saying her branch of the family had concluded it lacked the "appetite for risk" to have Dow Jones continue as a stand-alone corporation in such a competitive environment.

In addition to this, the family lawyer, Michael Elefante, had also come to the conclusion that they should consider Mr Murdoch's offer.

The confusion and vision within the family is personified by Christopher Bancroft, who last Thursday signed off on a statement by the family saying they would consider meeting Mr Murdoch, only to say hours later, at a Dow Jones board meeting, that he did not realise that by agreeing to consider all options, he was effectively putting the company up for sale.

The New York Times reported he had told the board meeting: "All I said is that we'd meet with him." The Wall Street Journal reported him asking: "Is it too late for us to withdraw our statement?" However, the statement had already been posted on The Wall Street Journal's website, ironically.

According to the Journal, "a person close to the family" expressed displeasure with the board's statement, saying it went beyond what the family had hoped. 'We were not asking the board to put the company on the block."

Shock! Rich Bastards Put Their Money On The Rich Bastard!

Here's Joseph Nocera, from behind the NYT paywire, courtesy of E&P:
He’s wanted it forever. He’ll promise just about anything to get his hands on it, including setting up a special editorial board that will protect the paper’s independence and integrity. But once he gets it, all bets are off. Of course he’s going to meddle — he’ll be the owner, for crying out loud, and he has very clear ideas about how a newspaper should look and feel and smell.

This is not to say that Dow Jones won’t vastly improve under his stewardship. I can guarantee you that it will. The reason Dow Jones is going to be sold to someone almost no one connected to the company wants to sell it to is precisely because it has been so poorly run over the past quarter-century. If there is one thing Mr. Murdoch knows how to do, it’s run a media company. It’s just sad that it’s come to this, that’s all....

Within The Wall Street Journal, there is a palpable sense of sadness, a feeling that a glorious era of journalism is coming to an end. One reporter talked to me about how wonderful The Journal had been when Norman Pearlstine had been the managing editor and James B. Stewart, the Pulitzer Prize winner now at The New Yorker, had been the Page 1 editor. “Murdoch has already said that he wants shorter stories,” this reporter said. “Those great long stories we used to do, the stories that made us special, will be gone.” (Like everyone at The Journal I spoke to, he declined to speak on the record about his prospective new boss.)

Others worried that linking The Journal with Mr. Murdoch’s coming new Fox business channel would be ruinous. After all, Fox has already said its channel is going to be more business-friendly than CNBC (though it is difficult to imagine that such a thing is possible). Surely, they felt, using Journal reporters to bolster the channel would harm The Journal’s well-deserved reputation for writing tough, smart stories. Still others feared that Mr. Murdoch would interfere in the paper’s political coverage or that he would dumb-down the paper, that he would act like the heathen they all think he is.

I have no idea whether these fears are overblown. The Murdoch side insists that he has no intention of mucking with The Journal. “The currency of The Journal is its credibility,” a Murdoch spokesman told me. “He’s not going to pay $5 billion just to gut it.”

(I did get a sense, by the way, that not everybody at The Journal is upset about the prospect of getting a paycheck from Mr. Murdoch. The folks on the editorial page, though they won’t say so publicly, are rooting for him. And it’s worth pointing out that in the immediate aftermath of the News Corporation offer, when the stock jumped from the mid-$30s to $60 a share, over a million stock options were sold by insiders. Clearly, some of the same reporters who are bemoaning the prospect of working for Rupert Murdoch are perfectly willing to take advantage of his offer.)
And, still courtesy E&P, here's more rich bastards rooting for Murdoch. The thing is, these people have no principles either, so of course they see the bid as an open-and-shut case. No wonder they are putting their precious money on it.

If only I could work out a legal financial scam that played on such vulnerability!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Principle? Murdoch Can't Get It Up

Stephen Mayne at Crikey assesses the damage to News Ltd since Murdoch announced his bid for Dow Jones:
Shares in the media conglomerate have now fallen 3.5% since the overly generous $7 billion bid was unveiled on 1 May, whilst the All Ordinaries index has risen by 3.87% over the same period, amounting to underperformance of more than 7%.

However, the intangible reputational issues are becoming more significant than any share-price gyrations as Rupert encounters far more blowback than he could have ever expected.
Mayne (who is famous for such stunts) says he is now "battling away with a rejected News Corp board tilt and a still hopeful shareholder resolution for this year’s AGM." You go, fella!

Mayne also points to a new Slate article by Jack Shafer:
Murdoch isn't bad for journalism because he's a conservative. He's bad for journalism because he has no principles...

Does Murdoch pass the Dow Jones stink test? He's not even qualified to take it.
Shafer in turn points to an Independent article suggesting that Murdoch may soon give Tony Blair a seat on the News Ltd board (which would place him right next to Jose Maria Aznar, former Spanish warmonger PM).

Rupert Murdoch Finally Puts His Mouth Where His Money Is

The Hollywood Reporter broke this story around lunchtime on Anzac Day:
Rupert Murdoch wore his politics on his sleeve Tuesday, telling a large audience of business leaders that the press is routinely unfair to George W. Bush and that the president doesn't seem capable of defending himself.

"I'm a supporter of President Bush, but I do believe he's a bad -- or inadequate -- communicator," Murdoch told attendees at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles.

The News Corp. chairman and CEO said that, personally, Bush is "persuasive, strong and articulate" but that "he seems to freeze whenever a television camera appears."

Motioning to Paul Gigot, editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal, Murdoch said, "Apart from your newspaper and mine, there's a sort of monolithic attack on him every day of the year."
Mind you, Murdoch's New York Post has been running at an estimated loss of $70 million a year. Murdoch's been forced to double the cover price to 50 cents, but you can still get a year's subscription for just $13 – or about 5 cents a day. So maybe he should get the message.

And the Wall Street Journal thinks bloggers like Arthur Chrenkoff and the Fadhil brothers are reputable sources of information. 'Nuff said.
"The atmosphere is absolutely toxic," Murdoch said of the partisanship of U.S. politics and much of the media. "You can't really expect anything to be achieved in the next 18 months, and it's a very serious, sad problem for this country."

Murdoch also lamented a U.S. populace that can't agree on how serious a threat militant Islam is, and he suggested skepticism about the danger of man-made global warning.

The environment is a long-running theme at the Milken event, now in its 10th year. In the past, former Vice President Al Gore has promoted his message about the perils of global warming, and this year Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., did likewise.

But Murdoch said that "alleged climate changes" and other problems are far more manageable than is the threat of Islamic terror, which will worsen significantly if Iran is allowed to develop nuclear weapons.

"It's a tragedy that we're not more united" in the war on terror, Murdoch said.
The question I'm asking myself about this stage in the article is this: Does Murdoch support Bush, or does Bush support Murdoch? Tellingly, David Rubenstein, managing director of the Carlyle Group, was on stage with Murdoch as he spoke. Who do you think picked the idiot from Texas for Prez anyway?

The LA Times has some good background on the event where Murdoch was speaking:
Think the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, without the skiing and antiglobalization protesters and with better shopping.
You have to wonder what other participants like Al Gore and Ted Turner made of Murdoch's remarks.

Interestingly, the News Corp staff in Oz seem to be playing this story with a straight bat. At least this speech should help them sort out their confusion about where the boss stands these days.

So like I said, this story broke from Beverly Hills about 12 hours ago. Still no sign of a post from resident News Ltd blogger, Tim Dunlop.

PS: I apologize unreservedly for ever suggesting that Rupert had morphed from a global warming sceptic into a supporter. It was the headlines on his newspapers that fooled me. Evidently the editors of his papers still have some capacity to report reality, if and when they choose to do so.

Sex, Media and Wendi "Mrs Murdoch" Deng

Update: More biographical detail on Wendi Deng here, including an old WSJ article.
What is it with powerful men and their womenfolk? Laura Bush, Cherie Blair and Janet Howard combined have all the sex appeal of a moth-balled cardigan in summer - is that a coincidence? Are we, the morally outraged citizens of the Western world, actually paying the cost for our leaders' sexual frustration?

T'was not always thus, of course. Indeed, there are many powerful individuals who still enjoy both the trappings of power and the tender caress of a loving, if not always loyal, hand... But they don't much like to talk about it.

As France goes to the second round of presidential elections, the country's leading candidate is keeping stories about his wife off-limits to the public:
Mrs Sarkozy, 49, is believed to have spent part of the past few weeks in Florida.

This has been widely reported in the foreign press and on the internet, but has barely been mentioned in the French mainstream press, and not at all on television. The only reference on radio has been in the daily foreign press review on France Inter - the French equivalent of Radio 4 - which last Wednesday gave listeners translated extracts from an article on the Sarkozy marriage published that day in The Independent. The article asked why there had been an official news "blackout" on Cécilia Sarkozy's virtual disappearance: France Inter made no further comment...

Sources in Mr Sarkozy's party, the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), say that there has indeed been another serious rift in his marriage: after brief appearances last Sunday at a polling station and at UMP headquarters, Cécilia has disappeared from view once again.

French websites are full of lurid speculation about the causes of the latest Nicolas-Cécilia bust-up, the third in two years. The Paris political-media village is talking of little else, and some are asking whether the rest of the public - especially the provincial public - does not have a right to know as well.

By contrast, the unconventional private life of the other remaining presidential candidate, Ségolène Royal, is well known to all...
So how is it that Sarkozy keeps his wife's name out of the papers, while Royal's life has been so exposed to media scrutiny that her partner was overheard hissing that his life had become "a living nightmare"?
One reason might be that Mr Sarkozy has many connections in the French media industry. The last editor of Paris-Match was fired for running a picture spread showing Cécilia with the man with whom she fled to the US in 2005. The magazine happens to be run by a group owned by a close friend of Mr Sarkozy.

When she left her husband in 2005, Cécilia Sarkozy gave a series of interviews to a journalist, Valérie Domain, who wrote a book giving the reasons for her flight. Mr Sarkozy intervened to have the book pulped.

Ms Domain changed the names and turned her book into a novel, Entre le Coeur et la Raison ("Between Heart and Reason"). The Cécilia Sarkozy character - "Célia" - is presented as an impulsive romantic who cannot stand living with a man who ignores her. At one point she says: "I have the impression that you have become like all of these other politicians, cold and distant, even with your wife. You are a fake, and I can stand it no longer."
Ahh, mon cherie....! What was it Albert Camus said?
"For anyone who is alone, without God and without a master, the weight of days is dreadful."
Coincidentally, Rupert Murdoch's young wife Wendi Deng is also being kept out of the news. As Crikey! reported over a week ago, Fairfax commissioned a major profile but then spiked the story at the last minute:
Here’s one crackerjack cover story you won’t be reading in Good Weekend magazine any time soon – the revealing inside story of the life and times of Wendi Deng. That’s because the story – a 10,000 word profile that took its writer two months of research across the world – was killed by the editor (or someone above her) two days ago.
Crikey! released more "tidbits" from the spiked story today. How long before this data infiltrates the mainstream media? Well, that all depends who dares to publish it, of course. And based on current form, that means ... well, nothing. (NOTE TO READERS: personally I would be happy to publish it if my free Crikey membership were still running, or let me know if you have links).

Now, just because Wendi married a wrinkly, smelly, flaccid old billionaire exactly twice her age (i.e. 38 years older than her) doesn't mean she is some kind of money-grabbing Anna Nicole Smith hoe, of course. Perish the thought! In fact, she is right up there in the Big Media groove:
"Between him and Wendi they are putting a lot of work into China and it is perhaps the last great frontier. China offers News Corp. the possibility of being bigger than Europe and the U.S," Cox said.
Yes, folks, Wendi is working those new business frontiers hard. In fact, with young Lachlan Murdoch reportedly enjoying the Bronte beach lifestyle, there is speculation that she could could even end up controlling the News Ltd empire!

So what do we know about Wendi Deng? Not much. This is from her Wikipedia entry:
Wendi moved to America in 1988 under the sponsorship of Joyce Cherry of California, who taught Deng English when she was in China with her husband, Jake Cherry. When Deng arrived in California, she moved into the home of Joyce and Jake Cherry. Within a year after Deng's arrival, Joyce found compromising photos of Deng in a hotel room in Jake's possession. Joyce kicked out both Deng and Jake, both of whom moved in together and eventually married. Within months of this marriage, Jake kicked Deng out after finding out she had been seeing a man in his 20's, David Wolf (who later went on to become a PR executive at Burston-Marsteller). According to Joyce: "[Deng] disappeared when he couldn’t provide her graduate school." ...

According to media sources run by Rupert Murdoch, Deng met Murdoch in 1999, the CEO of Star TV's parent company News Corporation. Murdoch divorced his wife of 31 years, Anna Torv, and married Deng within weeks afterwards. Shortly before their marriage was the marriage of Murdoch's oldest son, Lachlan, to model Sara O'Hare in Australia. Torv famously told the media that she asked Rupert to not bring Deng to this wedding, a request which Rupert complied with.

Deng and Rupert Murdoch have since had 2 daughters. Since their births, Deng has aggressively been strategizing (through Rupert) to give her children voting rights in a trust which has an interest in News Corp. that alone is valued at USD$6.1 billion. Until Deng's 2 daughters reach the age of 30, Deng would exercise those rights, which would give her 30% control over the trust...

There is reported to be tension between Murdoch and the children of his marriages to Anna over the terms of a trust holding the family's 28.5 percent stake in News Corporation, estimated in 2005 to be worth about $6.1 billion. Under the trust his children by Wendi share in the proceeds of the stock but have no voting privileges or control of the stock. Voting rights in the stock are divided 50/50 between Murdoch on the one side and his children by two prior marriages.

It is Murdoch's stated desire to have his children by Wendi given a measure of control over the stock proportional to their financial interest in it.
So. Obviously, nothing to see here folks! No argument for public interest. No need for further pubic - sorry, I mean public - scrotomy - sorry, I mean scrutiny.

Seriously, folks, if I had any dirt to dish on Wendi Deng I would happily dish it out. But in this case the real dirt is that THERE IS NO DIRT. There's no nothing.

Despite the fact that Deng is purportedly a top executive at a global news organisation (albeit of questionable repute), nobody is even allowed to TALK about her, let alone do interviews etc. Why not?

UPDATE: The Asia Sentinel asks if it is "hazardous to upset Rupert down in Oz". They point out that Deng's original Chinese name, Deng Wenge, means "cultural revolution". Hmmn, that sounds like a catchy phrase. Maybe FOX News should dump the old "fair and balanced" meme for something a bit bolder?
Hello and welcome back to the FOX News cultural revolution!
Seems to work, doesn't it?

Also, a few good thoughts via WP's blog. Why is it that young, sexy women never marry men who are double their age but POOR? Is it true that men only go to war (and build business empires) to impress their women? Could it be that the political struggle for a better world is inextricably linked to our own specie's daily stuggle to overcome the worst parts of our base human nature? Hmmmn...?

SOMEBODY Has Already Made $4.6 million off Murdoch's WSJ Bid

Shock! Horror! Insider trading is suspected:
On April 25, less than a week before the $60-a-share offer was publicly disclosed, an investor bought an option to buy 280,000 shares of Dow Jones for $40 each in September.

The investment was extraordinary for several reasons. Shares of Dow Jones were trading at about $36 at the time and had not crossed $40 in a year. The future for newspaper companies, meanwhile, was widely considered to be grim. As a result, the options cost the investor a mere 85 cents a share on the American Stock Exchange.

After Murdoch's offer was announced Tuesday, however, shares of Dow Jones shot up to $56 and the value of the options jumped to $17.20. The buyer of the options had a profit, on paper, of $4.6 million as of Wednesday afternoon...

The chances of this being just shrewd timing are zero," said Jon Najarian, a founder of, a site that studies unusual trading patterns.
Gosh, I wonder who it could be...? The initial bid proposal was formally made in a letter Murdoch sent two weeks ago. And the Bancrofts are a big family. So there are plenty of suspects for the police to round up, right? Yeah, right, now pull the other one!
Even with the more blatantly skewed options trades, though, investigators could have a hard time proving insider trading.

Officials would have to trace the flow of insider information to the investors who benefited from the options trade through someone familiar with News Corp.'s overture to the Dow Jones board and the Bancroft family, which has a controlling voting interest in the company. Officials would also have to prove that the person making the trade did not have another legitimate reason to buy the options.
Great work if you can get it, eh? What a massive bloody scam. No wonder these a**holes think ordinary citizens like me and you are just dumb fools, and they can invade countries for oil anytime they like.

What must life be like, up there in the clouds?

In a related story, here's a funny little response to Murdoch's bid from the pages of the WSJ itself:
Some owners of newspapers seldom, if ever, speak to their editors. Rupert Murdoch is not one of them....

Mr. Murdoch's hands-on style differs markedly from the traditions of the publisher he now wants to buy. The Bancroft family, the controlling shareholder of Wall Street Journal parent Dow Jones & Co., has long maintained a distance from the company's operations. The family, which owns 24.7% of the equity but through supervoting stock has voting control, has board representation but no involvement with direct management of the paper. While the editorial page has a conservative political viewpoint, a strict separation is enforced between the editorial page and the newsroom, designed to ensure opinion and news coverage don't mix.
In other words, the WSJ's genuine news content provides a platform for the Bancrofts to spout ultra-conservative, half-witted nonsense in the paper's editorial, and to publish opinion pieces from propaganda-catapulting charlatans like Arthur Chrenkoff and the Fadhil brothers. Hardly a good position from which to criticize the ethics of Big Rupe.

Where Is Wendi Deng Murdoch's Wolf?

Somebody at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory wants to know more about Rupert Murdoch's wife, Wendi Deng, and her old affair with a guy named David Wolf.

A man by that name is listed as a former lover in Wendi Deng's wikipedia entry:
Within months of this marriage, Jake kicked Deng out after finding out she had been seeing a man in his 20's, David Wolf (who later went on to become a PR executive at Burston-Marsteller).
Wolf is now President and CEO of Wolf Group Asia, Ltd. He even has his own blog! It's called Silicon Hutong. Here's a taste:
China Can Live Without Hollywood...

First of all, as Mr. Glickman himself noted, any sort of organized, multilateral action on the part of the major studios would likely be viewed by U.S. regulators as a violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. So coordinated unified action is out.

And any non-coordinated unity of action is highly unlikely. Apart from the fact that Iger, Parsons, Stringer, Redstone, Murdoch, and Zucker don't like each other any more than Disney, Warner, Zukor, Mayer, Cohn, Fox, and Laemmle did at the height of the studio system, each company knows that the departure of one would be to the advantage of another. If there are only so many slots each year, one guy walking away means more slots for someone else.
How could Wendi ever have walked away from hot talk like that??? Heh.

Here's David Wolf's corporate profile:
David Wolf is President and Chief Executive Officer of Wolf Group Asia (WGA), a Beijing-based corporate advisory firm. David has a broad range of government relations, strategic counsel, and market-entry management experience throughout Greater China and Asia, in both advisory and enterprise management capacities. His advisory work has focused on government relations, market entry, issues management, scenario planning, market assessment, and strategic advice on business in China at the CEO and Regional MD level. In addition, David is regularly called upon by regional and global media as a commentator on the technology industry and on business in China, and he serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of China Economic Quarterly, and the advisory board of mobile media company 21Communications of Shanghai.

David's clients reflect WGA's systemic approach to the technology, media and telecommunications industries, one which sees the continuity of interests among firms engaged in technology development, equipment manufacturing, content, software, and services. David serves as an advisor to Motorola, Hewlett-Packard, Young & Rubicam Brands, and Foxconn, among others.

Before starting WGA in 2005, David led Burson-Marsteller's Asia-Pacific Technology Practice, B-M's largest practice area in the region and leading a team of nearly 50 professionals in offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo, Singapore, and Sydney. David took the Asia-Pacific post after having founded B-M's Technology Practice in China in 2000, growing it into China's largest technology, media, and telecommunications public relations organization and winning a dozen major industry awards for client work.

Prior to joining Burson-Marsteller, David was Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer of Claydon Gescher Associates (CGA), a boutique strategy and public affairs consultancy based in Beijing with a focus on media, entertainment, and telecommunications. He was responsible for daily operations and long-term growth planning. Clients served include Intel, HBO Asia, Reuters, DeBeers/Stockdale, PanAmSat, Turner International, and Irdeto Access.

David's position prior to CGA was Managing Director in China for TV Shopping Network Ltd. of Australia. Originally hired as a consultant to design a market entry strategy and operations plan, the company appointed David soon after to undertake the effort. Within 90 days of plan approval David had launched the 24-hour satellite service in China, with cable-TV affiliates, a telephone center, and the necessary payment and delivery infrastructure to deliver orders within 72 hours to any major city in China. By the time of his departure from TVSN, David had arranged distribution to 11 million cable TV homes in 12 provinces, built a state-of-the-art fulfillment facility in Guangdong with a call center, warehouse, and 60 full-time staff processing thousands of orders each week.

David has lived in China since 1995 and currently resides in Beijing with his family. David holds a Masters degree in International Management from Thunderbird, the Garvin School of International Management, and a Bachelor's degree in International Relations from the University of California, Davis. In addition to English, he is fluent in Mandarin and Spanish. David is a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) (Computer Society, Standards Association, and Professional Communications Society), and is a PADI-certified Rescue Scuba Diver. He maintains a weblog at
Sounds like the sort of person an up-and-coming Chinese media magnate might want to spend some time with, doesn't he?

Interestingly, given my opening para, the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab is operated by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy. Deng originally came from China to the U.S.A. with the aid of a California couple, Jake and Joyce Cherry. In fact, she broke up their marriage, and then married Mr Cherry in 1990. I wonder where Mr Cherry is working now?

Here's some other less cutting-edge stuff, for anyone interested in this story. First, a photo of Wendi with George W. Bush and the rest of the gang, from a White House dinner for Australian PM John Howard (May 16, 2006).

Notice how Bush is leaning away from Howard and close to Wendi? What's THAT all about???

And here's a reprint of an old UK Telegraph story, which in turn is reporting on an old Wendi Deng story from - can you believe it? - the Wall Street Journal (see below) which Murdoch just happens to be trying to buy now! So much for good friends in the media industry! This story provides more background on what I have already said above, plus more:
How Murdoch's wife won her ticket to America

By Tom Leonard
Last Updated: 2:11pm BST 19/06/2001

THE media tycoon Rupert Murdoch got a taste of his newspapers' own medicine yesterday when the Wall Street Journal published an investigation into the tangled romantic history of his wife, Wendi Deng.

The world's driest and least sensational newspaper published what appeared to be an expose of the private history of Miss Deng, 31, who married Mr Murdoch last year. It was the work of a team of its reporters working in Los Angeles, Beijing and Singapore, and was worthy of the News of the World.

The newspaper, which tracked down former boyfriends and a jilted wife in the course of its inquiries, said she "has come a long way since leaving China a dozen years ago". An authoritative spokesman for News Corp told The Telegraph last night that the Journal's story was "malicious nonsense".

The newspaper claimed that she had rewarded an American woman who helped her to get out of China by running off with her 53-year-old husband. Miss Deng, then 21, subsequently married the man but four months later he allegedly told her to leave on the grounds that she was seeing another man less than half his age.

Although the marriage officially lasted more than two years - long enough, the newspaper said, for Miss Deng to get a "green card" allowing her to stay permanently in America - her former husband claimed that they only lived together for four or five months.

Miss Deng began appearing at Mr Murdoch's side two years ago, having earned an MBA from Yale and joined the Murdoch-owned Star TV as an intern in 1996. She has never spoken in the press about her background.

The newspaper reported that she was born Deng Wen Di in the eastern Chinese city of Xuzhou, the daughter of the director of a machinery factory. She was a "good student" and "champion volley ball player" who enrolled at Guangzhou medical college at the age of 16.

In 1987 she gained her "ticket out of China" when she met an American couple from Los Angeles, Jake and Joyce Cherry. Mrs Cherry, whose husband was building a factory in China, agreed to teach Miss Deng English. When Mrs Cherry went back to the United States her husband stayed in China and soon after, he told her that Miss Deng wanted to go to America to study there.

The couple sponsored her application for a student visa and agreed to put her up until she had established herself. Miss Deng, then 19, went to live at the Cherry's home in 1988 and shared a bunk bed with their five-year-old daughter.

Mrs Cherry grew increasingly suspicious about her husband's relationship with Miss Deng. The report added: "Mrs Cherry recalls discovering a cache of photographs her husband had taken of Miss Deng in coquettish poses in his hotel room in Guanzhou."

Mr Cherry admitted that he had become infatuated with her and that once they were in Los Angeles, Miss Deng started "making recommendations" about his diet and wardrobe. When her husband and Miss Deng did not come home some evenings, Mrs Cherry concluded that they were having an affair, said the newspaper.

She told Miss Deng to leave and her husband left soon afterwards, moving into a nearby apartment with Miss Deng, who was by then a student at California State University. The Cherrys divorced and Mr Cherry married Miss Deng in 1990.

However, the romance came to an abrupt end after Mr Cherry discovered that Miss Deng "had started spending time" with a man named David Wolf. Mr Cherry said: "She told me I was a father concept to her but it would never be anything else. I loved that girl."

Mr Wolf, who now works in public relations in Beijing - and whose mother was a guest at the Murdoch-Deng wedding, according to the Wall Street Journal - refused to talk to its journalists.
That Telegraph article is actually a rip off a Wall Street Journal article, which is reprinted below. What I find strange is how few and far between such articles are, given Wendi Deng's apparent prominence in the business world (not to mention News Ltd's high profile in politics, and succession issues related to Rupert's age). Doesn't the public have a right to know more about this woman?

Rupert Murdoch was a 19-year-old trainee reporter at the long-gone Sydney Daily Mirror in 1965, when I was born. That's where and when he met his first wife, Anna. They were married from 1967 till 1999. Somehow I don't think it's HER fault that the marriage didn't work.

Now here's a link an an excerpt from that 2001 Wall Street Journal story:
She may have "no official role," says Star TV's president, Bruce Churchill, but Ms. Deng "is married to the chairman and chief executive of the company, so it seems natural that she has some voice in the business."

Ms. Deng declined repeatedly through a representative to be interviewed or to answer most of a list of written questions. Mr. Murdoch also declined repeated interview requests.

A spokesman for News Corp., Gary Ginsberg, says, "As the wife of the chairman and a private citizen, Wendi is entitled to her privacy." Ms. Deng's role at the company, the spokesman adds, is "minimal and confined to facilitating a few meetings in China and interpreting nuances of the Chinese market, which she is uniquely qualified to do." (News Corp. officially refers to the chairman's wife as "Mrs. Murdoch," but in media and Internet business circles, most people still call her Wendi Deng.)

Mr. Murdoch has long been fascinated by the potential of the China market and his Fox studio was a pioneer in doing business in the country. But at times, he has seemed to lack the feel for subtleties his wife is said to have.
Hmmn, sounds like maybe Rupert married Wendi because she could get him access to the big, lucrative Chinese market. So who is marrying whom for money, eh?

Hey, Rupert, wanna pay me to shut up now??? Every man has his price, you know!

No? OK, here's more:
Mr. Murdoch gradually repaired relations with the Chinese. He pulled the British Broadcasting Corp. from Star TV, making the channel more palatable to the Beijing government. He sold the South China Morning Post newspaper to a pro-Beijing businessman. And at his behest, News Corp.'s HarperCollins publishing unit killed a book contract with the last governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, an antagonist of the communist regime.
Seems Wendi has paved the path to Murdoch's business success in Asia, something arrogant Western billionaires do tend to struggle with. And Murdoch now gives her considerable latitude in the business real. 'Twas not always thus, however:
Shortly after they were married in June 1999, Mr. Murdoch told Vanity Fair magazine that his relationship with his new wife precluded her from working for News Corp. Instead, Mr. Murdoch said, Ms. Deng was "busy working on decorating the new apartment" in Manhattan. He said his bride, a graduate of the Yale School of Management, was "a bit frustrated" by the narrow scope of her activities, adding, "we'll just have to resolve that somehow."
Tsk, tsk, Rupert! Glad to hear you have moved on to health shakes and 6 am workouts! Wendi has obviously moved on too:
Ms. Deng has become deeply involved in the company's analysis and negotiation of business transactions in China, according to people who have dealt extensively with News Corp. Entrepreneurs trying to interest the company in their ideas often go first to Ms. Deng, according to a person close to News Corp. She has told this person that she sometimes receives more than 100 e-mails a day from Chinese with business proposals. She sometimes meets entrepreneurs at News Corp.'s offices in Beijing or at one of the city's well-known business-gathering spots, such as the tony St. Regis bar.
Hmmnn... Maybe I should be talking directly to Wendi?
Mr. Cherry says that about four months after the wedding, he told Ms. Deng to leave because she had started spending time with a man named David Wolf. Mr. Cherry was 53 at the time. Mr. Wolf was in his mid-20s, only a few years older than Ms. Deng.

Mr. Wolf, who declined repeated interview requests, worked in the early 1990s for an import-export company. He spoke some Chinese and was interested in a career in China, according to a person who knew him at the time.

Mr. Cherry says he and Ms. Deng briefly reconciled at one point, but they split for good when it became clear she was continuing to see Mr. Wolf. "She told me I was a father concept to her, but it would never be anything else," Mr. Cherry recalls. "I loved that girl."

Divorce records filed with the Los Angeles County Superior Court show that the Cherry-Deng marriage lasted two years and seven months. That was seven months longer than what was required for Ms. Deng to obtain a "green card," allowing her permanently to live and work in the U.S. as a resident alien. Mr. Cherry says he and Ms. Deng actually lived together for "four to five months, at the most." They haven't spoken since 1996, he adds.

During the period in the early 1990s when she was married to Mr. Cherry, and for a time after that, Ms. Deng at least on some occasions introduced the tall, well-dressed Mr. Wolf as her husband, according to people who knew Ms. Deng. Ken Chapman, a California State economics professor, recalls that the last time he saw his former student, in 1995, she handed him Mr. Wolf's business card and said she could be reached through her "husband."

At 5'10" herself, Ms. Deng and Mr. Wolf made a striking couple, according to people who knew them. They shared several addresses during the 1990s and told friends they had met in China, when Mr. Wolf had been there on business. For a time in the early 1990s, the couple worked at a suburban Los Angeles gymnastics academy operated by Li Ning, a three-time Chinese Olympics gold medallist. Ms. Deng served as a liaison between the gym's Chinese coaching staff and parents of the school-age clientele; Mr. Wolf, as the gym's general manager. Today, Mr. Wolf works as a director in the Beijing office of Burson-Marsteller, a large public-relations firm.
Well, it is late here in Australia, so I'll just re-post the rest of the old WSJ piece without further comment. I might come back to this post tomorrow... or the next day...
While a student at California State in the early 1990s, Ms. Deng and three other undergraduates formed a quartet that is recalled on the Northridge campus as the most talented group ever to pass through the school's economics department, according to Prof. Daniel Blake. The four students, who often ate and studied together, collaborated on a major written project analyzing the effect of fiscal policy on the U.S. economy.

Mr. Blake recalls that in a recommendation he wrote for Ms. Deng's application to Yale's business school, he called her a "super student, very focused on her studies." He predicted that Ms. Deng "would play a role in the opening up of China" to Western businesses.

During her four years at California State, her friends and professors say, Ms. Deng's command of spoken English improved dramatically. She chose to go to business school at Yale, says Mr. Blake, because of the international emphasis of its M.B.A. program.

In 1996, Ms. Deng graduated from Yale and began looking for a job. Through a mutual friend, she met Bruce Churchill, who then oversaw finance and corporate development at News Corp.'s Fox TV unit in Los Angeles. She lacked experience in the entertainment industry, but her credentials otherwise were impressive. She had an Ivy League business degree and was fluent in English and Mandarin, attributes of particular value to an outfit like News Corp.'s struggling Asian satellite service, Star TV. Mr. Churchill, who was on his way to Star TV as deputy chief executive, offered Ms. Deng an internship in Hong Kong. That grew into a full-time job.

Even though Ms. Deng was a relatively junior employee, she took an active role in planning Star TV's activities in Hong Kong and China, according to former News Corp. colleagues. She helped build distribution in China for Star's Channel V music channel, for example, and explored interactive TV opportunities for the company's News Digital Systems unit.

Former colleagues describe Ms. Deng as having been adept at juggling the interests of News Corp.'s various units, which like to operate independently. She is depicted as having been well prepared for meetings and anything but shy. She is said to have shown no hesitation about walking unannounced into a senior executive's office to discuss the latest Chinese entrepreneur she had met or government official she had contacted.

Rupert Murdoch frequently talks with News Corp.'s business-development executives around the globe, so it isn't surprising that one day he would cross paths with Ms. Deng. In early 1998, she first appeared at his side, acting as his interpreter when he traveled to Shanghai and Beijing.

By the summer of 1998, the Star TV staff was buzzing about romance between the pair. After dinner meetings in Hong Kong, they were observed holding hands. In May, Mr. Murdoch had separated from his wife of 31 years, Anna. The split surprised even his closest aides, who say they hadn't seen any sign of a rupture.

Mr. Murdoch told senior Star TV executives in the fall of 1998 that his relationship with Ms. Deng was "serious." Star TV's then-chairman, Gareth Chang, told Mr. Murdoch at the time that it was a bad idea for Ms. Deng to remain on staff, given her personal relationship with the parent company's chairman. That wouldn't be a problem, Mr. Murdoch replied, because Ms. Deng would be resigning and moving with him to New York.

Today, Rupert and Wendi Murdoch spend time not only in SoHo, but also at their home in Bel Air and a ranch near Carmel, Calif. Mr. Murdoch controls about 30% of News Corp., a stake worth roughly $8.7 billion. He has said the stock is owned by trusts that name his three children as beneficiaries.

Rupert and Anna Murdoch's divorce became final in June 1999, about a year after their official separation date. Negotiations over a divorce settlement dragged on for nearly 12 months, as Anna Murdoch's lawyers tried to determine the extent of News Corp.'s global assets. Financial terms of the settlement weren't made public, but the Murdochs have said they were in agreement on one crucial point: that their children eventually would gain control of the company. Anna Murdoch five months later married widower William Mann, chairman of Henry Mann Securities Corp. in New York.

Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng were married on June 25, 1999, 17 days after his divorce became final. The twilight ceremony took place on Mr. Murdoch's garland-bedecked yacht, the Morning Glory, in New York Harbor. Welsh singing star Charlotte Church serenaded the couple with a trio of ballads. Among the 82 guests were Mr. Murdoch's three children and friends such as financier Michael Milken and Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky. Also on board was Valeria Wolf, the mother of David Wolf. News Corp. later posted a photograph of the newlyweds on the company Web site.
The writers of this old WSJ piece were John Lippman at , Leslie Chang at and Robert Frank at I wonder if any of them still work at WSJ?

My, What Big Cheques You Have, Mr Murdoch!

“All newspapers are run to make profits. Full stop. I don’t run anything for respectability. The moment I do, I hope someone will come and fire me and get me out of the place — because that’s not what newspapers are meant to be about.”
- Rupert Murdoch.
Great analysis from David Carr at the New York Times:
* First, the deal will be made at some point, regardless of what the Bancroft family said last week. Brute-force capital, like flood waters, always finds a way to break through.

* Despite his allaying words to the contrary, Mr. Murdoch would operate The Journal, including its editorial operations, as he sees fit. As Mr. Murdoch himself has said throughout his relentlessly acquisitive career, he buys things to run things.

* There is business synergy in the deal — between the News Corporation’s proposed Fox Business cable TV channel and The Journal, for example. But far more important is Mr. Murdoch’s own version of synergy, which puts business, media and government all in a single vertical. Owning The Journal would give him a powerful leverage in all three.

* The price that Mr. Murdoch is offering — $60 a share — is a multiple of ego, not earnings. He may have some other super-secret plan to squeeze more value out of the company, but the deal would give him something that, for all of his stellar business achievements, he’s never achieved in this country: a seat at the gentlemen’s table.
Carr also provides a few case studies to ponder:
In 1969, he showed up as a white knight when the Carr family (not my people, by the way) were struggling to maintain control of News of the World in London. He assured them that a family member would remain chair and that he would acquire no more than 40 percent of the stock. Not.

In 1976, Dorothy Schiff, owner of The New York Post, found a sympathetic ear and a promise of editorial continuity for her paper, but a cadre of British and Australian journalists began remaking the paper and staff as soon as Mr. Murdoch gained control. As owner of the Post, he took the lead with the newspaper unions on behalf of all the New York newspapers during the 1978 strike and then cut a side deal.

In 1981, he romanced both Harry Evans and his then fiancée Tina Brown for The Sunday Times and The Times of London, but that, too, came to tears. In the mid-1980s, Mr. Murdoch engaged in a dialogue with British newspaper unions even as he built a new printing facility (gilded with razor wire no less) that would render them beside the point...

“When I used to work with Katharine Graham, she used to say his name and then almost spit on the ground,” said Mark M. Edmiston, managing director of AdMedia Partners, an investment bank. “But capitalism is built on the highest and best use of capital and he understands that. Money has no conscience.”

Neither, many would argue, does Mr. Murdoch.
Neither, of course, do the Bancroft family. I won't be shedding a tear for them when (not if) Murdoch gets their paper. What concerns me is what Rupert Murdoch might do with not just a media empire, but also a virtual stranglehold on global financial data. Many powerful business people read the Wall Street Journal, and not just for the pro-Bush editorials.

UPDATE: Murdoch has just sold his 7.5% stake in Fairfax. It's called "cashing up" for the big deal.

Did Wendi Deng Help Her Ex-Lover's Family Create A News Ltd Movie Star?

And if so, does Rupert know about it?

News Ltd's profits continue to soar, helped by a box office hit called "A Night At The Museum". Here's the spiel:
Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) is a divorced father who is constantly unable to keep a stable job, the bulk of them being failed business ventures. He is desperate to win the support of his son Nick (Jake Cherry), whom he fears is beginning to look up to his more successful soon-to-be stepfather (Paul Rudd), a bond trader on Wall Street.
Hello? Jake Cherry? Didn't Wendi Deng have a former husband by the same name? Why, yes she did! Of course, the boy in the movie was born on September 15, 1996, when Wendi and Cherry had already been divorced for four years. And he doesn't look too Chinese, does he:

But is there some kind of family connection here? It is rumoured that the rising movie star prodigy Jake Cherry is the son of gay GOP activist Marc Cherry, the creator of Desperate Housewives, in which Jake also stars. But that's not true. So is there a family connection between the latest News Ltd acting prodigy and Wendi's old lover?

Seems Wendi met her Jake Cherry in China, where - depending on who you read - he was either "a UNICEF executive", an "American working for Guangzhou Engineering Factory" (The Australian Financial Review, 24th-25th March, 2007), or even, as Crikey suggested in a very interesting 2000 article, "a wealthy American sports goods manufacturer" and possible US government agent!
Although she rarely ever talks of the specifics of her past, it is believed around the age of 20 she married a wealthy American sports goods manufacturer who frequently travelled to China on business. The gentleman, whose name is a mystery, would seem to have been her first "sugar daddy" - he apparently funded her and arranged for her American visa (that said, no record of the marriage has been discovered). Short of being a government agent (an intriguing possibility for which unfortunately there is no evidence), Hong Kong Wendi-watchers are baffled by the real mystery of how a Chinese girl of some twenty years, from a relatively poor and uninfluential family, could so easily leave Guangdong at that time and take up residence in California. Nothing is known about her life in China prior to her arrival in California and there has been no confirmation that she studied medicine at that time, a claim she once made in California.
In any case, the WSJ November 2000 article confirms that Jake and Joyce Cherry were "a Los Angeles couple", suggesting a possible link to Hollywood. This recollection from a fellow student strengthens that possibility:
As Chapman observes, "She could have chosen far more ritzy universities around Los Angeles but she chose our Northridge campus and I have no idea why. Occasionally she mentioned her husband.But never called him by name and certainly didn't live with him. He had a place in Beverly Hills and she had an apartment in the suburbs near the university in Northridge. There was a lot of speculation among other students about whether it was a marriage of convenience."
So now we are down to Beverly Hills, the heart of Hollywood. Interesting.

I cannot find any further details on young actor Jake Cherry's family connections, but anyone with any tips please let me know! If this young Jake Cherry really is connected to Deng's ex-husband, I cannot help wondering... Does Rupert know???

Anyone interested in this story will probably also want to take a good look at this week's edition of ABC Mediawatch, which examines how and why Fairfax newspapers, in which Murdoch held a minor shareholding till this week, decided to spike (ie kill) a major profile of Wendi Deng by reporter Eric Ellis. Here's a little excerpt from the story:
"...A Star executive…remembers her interaction with…Robert Bland. Bland seemed to be going places, controlling a crucial revenue centre...The day after she'd been introduced to him…he was walking down the corridor in front of Wendi's office. Laughs the executive, "Wendi, this intern rushes out and grabs Bland's greasy ponytail...And she gives it a yank and says in this squeaky voice 'Hi Robert! I'm Wendi! Remember me? I'm the intern', and she just cackles with this kiddie laugh 'Hahahahaha.'"
Ellis' Deng profile has apparently now been bought by "the Monthly" (an independent mag) and will be published next month.

Also in the news today, it turns out the people under suspicion for insider trading on Murdoch's WSJ bid are a Chinese family with links to a director at Dow Jones (who strenuously denies any wrongdoing). Interesting.

UPDATE: Another thought. The UNICEF idea looks like a dud, but is it possible that Jake Cherry was a wealthy US businessman for whom the Guangzhou Engineering Factory was making sports shoes? If so, was there slave labour involved? Is that how he landed in Beverley Hills?

Anything is possible, right? And US business contacts with Guangzhou go way back:
Incidentally, the opium trade was not confined to the British. The leading American opium firm was Russell & Co. Its taipan was an old sea captain named Warren Delano. He was at one time the American vice-consul in Canton (Guangzhou) and was a staunch Republican. His political philosophy is best summed up by his somewhat bigoted statement, "I will not say that all Democrats are horse thieves, but it does seem that all horse thieves are Democrats." He was rather upset when his daughter married a Democrat, James Roosevelt. Her son, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, became the 32nd U.S. president.

UPDATE 2: I originally suggested young Jake might be old Jake's nephew, but given that old Jake was supposedly 50 when he got into bed with Wendi, chances are young Jake is more likely a grandson, if anything. And here's another thought: Jake Cherry's wife divorced him after she found photos of him having sex with Deng. Gosh, those photos would be worth a lot of money these days, wouldn't they? I wonder if anyone still has them? I wonder if they might post them on YouTube? That would be fitting, given that Wendi Deng is now in charge of News Ltd's competitor offering, MySpaces.

I am naughty today, aren't I? And some might say that this sort of sleazy gossip is inexcusable. But in the first place, I think we, the people, have a right to know who is controlling our world. And in the second place, this sort of sleaze journalism is exactly how Murdoch came to power, and he has used it repeatedly to bring down political and business opponents, so I am more than happy to help dish out a dose of his own medecine. Fair's fair!

Wendi Deng Gets Slated

Here's to the girl in the red shoes,
She smokes my cigerettes and drinks my booze,
She has no cherry but that's no sin,
She still has the box that the cherry was in.
- Anon.
Jack Shafer at Slate picks up on the saga of the spiked Wendi Deng story:
You can no more injure Rupert Murdoch by calling him a purveyor of sensationalism and trash than you can offend gangrenous flesh by calling it stinky. The man has doesn't have calluses. He is a callus.

That's not to say Murdoch is completely impervious to what is said and written about him. His weak spot is his family...
Shafer highlights the weakness of the Fairfax editors and News Ltd hacks' argument that the story was not newsworthy:
Contrary to News Corp. assertions, Deng wielded real power inside News Corp. at the time the Journal story ran. The third paragraph of the piece states:
Though she doesn't have a formal position with her husband's media empire, she has quickly asserted influence over News Corp.'s operations and investments in Asia, the most important growth market for the company.

Working with her stepson, James Murdoch, 27, Ms. Deng has initiated or advocated Chinese Internet investments totaling between $35 million and $45 million, according to a top News Corp. executive. With her advice, News Corp. has also formed partnerships with cable companies in the region looking to upgrade their systems for high-speed video and Internet access.
Today, Deng is integral to the launching of News Corp.'s MySpace in China. MySpace China is taking on a partner, reports the April 27 Wall Street Journal, and News Corp. will have at least three seats on its board, "one of which will be occupied by Mr. Murdoch's Chinese-born wife, Wendi, who has spearheaded MySpace's push into China."
Of course, being a gold-digging bitch is no crime. But given Deng's profile, which is only going to grow when the old man dies, it is most certainly newsworthy.

Shafer suggests Murdoch should "take the Wendi Deng punches and relax":
Deng has a past; Murdoch has a past. Lots of people combine ambition with romance. So what if she extracts from the life of Sammy Glick a role model instead of a cautionary parable? Their match is hell-made and perfect.
You have to wonder if being on the recieving end of some sleaze journalism might not make Rupert rethink his business ethics. Even just for a millisecond.

Murdoch's WSJ Would Bolster Chinese Government Repression

As the Bancroft family meets to consider accepting Murdoch's WSJ offer, WSJ's Pulitzer-winning journalists in China beg them to say no:
May 10, 2007

We are correspondents who report from China for The Wall Street Journal, and we are writing to urge you to stand by the Bancroft family's courageous and principled decision to reject News Corp.’s offer to acquire Dow Jones & Co.

There are only a handful of news organizations anywhere with the resources and the integrity to pursue the truth in matters of national and even global importance. Thanks to your family’s committed stewardship, the Journal is at the head of this dwindling group.

Our China team won the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting this year for a series of stories detailing the consequences of China‘s unbridled pursuit of capitalism – for China and for the rest of the world. Many of those stories shed an unflattering light on the government and business interests.

The prize is a reflection of the Journal’s substantial investment in covering what is perhaps the biggest economic, business and political story of our time: how China‘s embrace of markets and its growing global role are reshaping the world we live in. It is an important example of the coverage that we fear would suffer if News Corp. takes control.

News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch has a well-documented history of making editorial decisions in order to advance his business interests in China and, indeed, of sacrificing journalistic integrity to satisfy personal or political aims.

Mr. Murdoch’s approach is completely at odds with that taken by your own family, whose unwavering support of ethical journalism has made the Journal the trusted news source it is. It is fair to ask how News Corp. would change the Journal’s coverage.

In 2001, for example, our colleague Ian Johnson shared the Pulitzer for international reporting for his articles about the Chinese government’s sometimes brutal suppression of the Falun Gong spiritual movement.

Under Mr. Murdoch, these articles might never have seen the light of day. That year, Mr. Murdoch’s son, James, the CEO of British Sky Broadcasting, delivered a speech in California echoing the line of the Chinese government in terming Falun Gong a “dangerous” and “apocalyptic cult,” which “clearly does not have the success of China at heart.”

Newspaper accounts of the speech say that James Murdoch criticized the Western media for negative coverage of human-rights issues in China, concluding that "these destabilizing forces today are very, very dangerous for the Chinese government.”

We believe that it is important for all of us – from reporters and editors to you, the owners of the company – to keep constantly in mind the fact that the Journal is an institution that plays a critical role in civic life. We take pride in knowing that Journal readers trust us to uphold these principles, even in the face of risks.

Your family established and is now entrusted with a unique and important institution. Safeguarding it is a responsibility that you have fulfilled admirably for decades. Yours is the kind of stewardship journalists on the ground in China will require in the years to come if they are to accurately frame one of the world’s most critical news stories. We have enormous respect for your continued willingness to defend the journalistic standards so important to all of us.


Gordon Fairclough
Mei F. Fong
James T. Areddy
Shai Oster
Jane Spencer
Andrew Batson
Jason S.L. Leow
Meanwhile, Murdoch has been penning a few letters of his own. He wrote this one to the Bancroft family a few days ago:
The Members of the Bancroft Family
Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
1 World Financial Center
200 Liberty Street
New York, NY 10281

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Please allow me the opportunity with this letter to address more fully why News Corporation would be an ideal partner for Dow Jones, and why we are so enthusiastic about a potential combination. As I stated to you in my letter of April 26th, nothing is more imperative than demonstrating that News Corporation would be dedicated to building upon the more than 100-year heritage of your great Company.

We are disappointed, as I imagine you are, that the details of our proposal and the discussion of the merits of a potential combination have become a matter of public debate. In the weeks since our proposal was made public on Tuesday, May 1st, there has been much written about a potential combination and News Corporation's intentions. I would like to express my regret if you have been placed in an uncomfortable position by the events of the past week.

Much has been written about me, my family and our company, some flattering, some not; some accurate, most not. Please let me assure you that, first and foremost, I am a newspaper man. I don't apologize for the fact that I have always had strong opinions and strong ideas about newspapers; but I have also always respected the independence and integrity of the news organizations with which I am associated....

[yadda, yadda]

... I understand the magnitude of the decision you are facing. I hope you find our proposal an indication of the great hope I have for Dow Jones' future. I trust you have a better understanding of my commitment to preserving and building upon your legacy.

I would welcome an opportunity to meet with members of the family, the Board, management, and the newsroom to review our proposal in further detail. Thank you for your consideration.

Yours sincerely,
Rupert Murdoch
Then Murdoch penned another letter to the WSJ board:
We have a history of long stewardship of great newspapers (for instance, "The Times", "The Sunday Times" and "The Australian'). I always see my role as supporting the editors and publishers of these newspapers.

We think we would be the ideal partner to grow and expand your company, as well as protect such a vital public trust.

Unfortunately, I have never had the privilege of meeting the Bancroft family; nor have they had the opportunity to meet me, my family, or senior editors. Such a meeting would at least given them a better understanding and clear up many possible misconceptions.

I would greatly appreciate it if you could pass on to the family (or their representatives) my request for such a meeting, since there is so much at stake for all concerned.
It's being widely reported toiday that Murdoch is offering the Bancroft family a seat on the WSJ board, and offering personal guarantees of independence. The problem for Murdoch is that he has no credibility left. His record speaks for itself. He is just hoping that the Bancrofts are as stupid and unethical as their editorial pages often indicate.

It's the same thing for PM John Howard, of course: the man cannot even buy a vote today. He's just hoping the Australian public are as stupid and unethical as previous elections indicate.