Murdoch backtracks - a little - on Net's wonders

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The Independent Online

Rupert Murdoch, News Corp's chairman, who has repeatedly urged fellow media companies to wake up to the growing power of the internet, saw those warnings come back to haunt him yesterday. He said investors worldwide were on "strike" against traditional media companies due to their concerns about the impact of new technologies on the media sector.

The Australian-born media mogul said News Corp's own share price was "rotten" and did not reflect the company's strong growth in recent months, driven by its traditional media businesses such as its Fox television network and the Twentieth Century Fox film studio.

Mr Murdoch may have helped undermine these achievements with his apocalyptic warnings about the internet. He said in a speech to a group of American newspaper editors in April: "I didn't do as much as I should have after the excitement of the late 1990s. I suspect many of you in this room did the same, quietly hoping this thing called the digital revolution would just limp along. Well, it hasn't, it won't, and it's a fast-developing reality that we should grab."

Speaking at a News Corp shareholder meeting in Adelaide, Australia, yesterday, Mr Murdoch struck a more upbeat note, saying he thought investors would eventually realise the importance of media companies. News Corp has also spent $1.4bn (£820m) on internet acquisitions in the past year to diversify its business.

The 74-year-old billionaire remarked at the meeting that he had had enough of the fevered speculation about who would replace him, which was sparked when his son Lachlan quit the board in July.

"I'm sick of being told I'm dying. I'm feeling great. I may feel different next year, I may feel different in 20 years," said Mr Murdoch, who has said in the past that he would only leave the company in a coffin.

One of the shareholders who attended the meeting was Mr Murdoch's mother, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, 96, who said she was happy with her son's decision to move News Corp's headquarters to the United States last year.

"Yes, I think so, it had to come," she said. "We were happy; we have great confidence that he always knows best."

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