Rupert Murdoch has been called an unusual mixture – part account, part gambler, part brilliant marketer, and part shrewd journalist. No one can deny, however, that at age 54, the Australian publishing magnate has successfully parlayed a struggling two-paper publishing company into a three-continent publishing empire.
Born in Melbourne in 1931, Mr. Murdoch is founder of Australia’s biggest media company. While a student at Oxford, he spent his summers on London’s Fleet Street, learning the newspaper business by working on Lord Beaverbrook’s Daily Express. After graduation, Mr. Murdoch remained in England for two years, returning to Australia in 1954 to take over News Limited, a small South Australian publishing firm in which his late father had bought a controlling interest two years earlier. Under his leadership, the company diversified into magazines, radio and television.
In 1960, Mr. Murdoch moved to Sydney, taking over the ailing Daily Mirror, an afternoon tabloid. The vigorous competition which broke out between the Mirror and its rival raised the circulation of both papers. It also established Rupert Murdoch as a force to be reckoned with in the publishing industry. By 1964 News Limited was operating as a truly national Australian organization, publishing newspapers in every state, with profits of $1.5 million. Mr. Murdoch launched The Australian, the country’s first and only national daily, printed by electronic facsimile process simultaneously in four cities. It is now Australia’s most influential daily, with a heavy emphasis on national politics, foreign news, business and the arts.
News Limited acquired the western world’s largest selling newspaper, The News of the World in 1969. Shortly after, the British company, renamed News International, purchased the ailing national daily, The Sun, formerly the Daily Herald, and successfully relaunched it as a tabloid.
Following successes in Australia and England, Mr. Murdoch moved into America in 1973, purchasing the Harte-Hankes’ owned publishing operation in San Antonio. A few months later, he began publishing The Star, a national weekly magazine. In 1976, he bought the New York Post and shortly afterwards, New York Magazine and The Village Voice. Mr. Murdoch has also acquired Times Newspapers, Ltd., in Britain, William Collins plc., one of Britain’s most important book publishing firms, The Boston Herald, and the Chicago Sun-Times. In November, 1984, his News America Publishing purchased the Ziff-Davis Publishing Company Business Publications Division, comprised of 12 publications in the travel and aviation fields. The division, renamed Murdoch Magazines, is the company’s first venture into trade publications.