MURDOCH by William Shawcross


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A thoroughly professional report on the rise and near fall of Rupert Murdoch as the planet's ranking multimedia baron. In recounting how the Australian-born, English-educated maverick built a transnational empire that encompasses newspapers, book publishers, a Hollywood movie studio, magazines, UK satellite broadcast facilities, and a US TV network, Shawcross (The Shah's Last Ride, Sideshow, etc.) doesn't shrink from discussing whether his subject is a force for good or ill. While giving Murdoch full credit for appreciating what had to be done to capitalize on the information age's commercial potential, the author frequently taxes his subject for taking acquired properties (Fax, London's Tunes, New York's Post, TV Guide, etc.) down market. Nor does Shawcross put much stock in the administrative or operational acumen of the vaultingly ambitious, opportunistic Australian (who became a US citizen so he could legally own American TV stations). Indeed, the author devotes much instructive attention to how fiscal legerdemain (coupled with recession) almost put paid to Murdoch's debt-burdened holding company toward year-end 1990. A Citicorp-led bailout staved off disaster at the 11th hour, however, allowing Murdoch to retain control of a restructured, albeit no less powerful, enterprise. Whether this reversal of fortune was in the public interest, though, is an open question for Shawcross. Noting that Murdoch (whom rivals call "the Dirty Digger") is a uniquely important broker of entertainment and news, Shawcross fears that he may (absent the socioeconomic restraints imposed upon corporate competitors like Bertelsmann, Paramount, and Time Warner) continue to appeal to the more base tastes of reading and/or viewing audiences. Along similar lines, the author takes frequent exception to Murdoch's penchant for adversarial labor relations, as well as to his enthusiasm for American culture and unfettered capitalism. A worldly-wise rundown on a visionary magnate.

Pub Date: Feb. 2nd, 1993
ISBN: 0684830159
Page count: 512pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1992


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