Elisabeth Murdoch: The savvy, skill and style to head up the empire
Tuesday 22 February 2011
More than seven years ago, Rupert Murdoch gave an interview to The New York Times in which he dwelt on the multiple talents of his second daughter Elisabeth, whom he named after his beloved mother. "She will probably sell Shine for a bloody fortune to someone," he said of her television production company, which was then less than three years old. "And then she will come knocking on the door, and she will be very welcome."
The scenario that the old media mogul has clearly been kicking around for a very long time became a reality yesterday, with Mr Murdoch adding Shine to his News Corp empire.
In her own interview with The New York Times, almost three years ago, Elisabeth Murdoch was asked if she could foresee a day when she returned to work for her father. "Yes I could," she responded. "Do I know how, or when, or what shape that would take? No. I don't really ever want to leave Shine. So I don't know how it would happen one day, but it's certainly not out of the cards."
Early last year she told The Guardian of the maternal bonds she felt towards her production company. "It is my vehicle, it's representative of me. I never want to not be part of it," she said, stating boldly: "I'm not leaving in 12 months' time." A year on, Ms Murdoch has played her hand, with the result that she seems to have joined up with the family business without letting go of her baby.
Elisabeth Murdoch, 42, is a remarkable woman, irrespective of her surname. So influential has she become in London circles that the society magazine Tatler declared her "the world's most powerful blonde" in 2007. She has managed to charm the British television industry, where a metropolitan and invariably liberal consensus prevails, while never losing the admiration of her father.
Although Shine has maintained a relationship with Sky, where Ms Murdoch worked previously, she has proved herself as a media entrepreneur. "She's quite clearly able to build a great company from scratch," said an industry observer. "It's quite possible that she could run [News Corp] in the UK. She could do that, though whether she would wish to is the big question."
As the wife of the public relations man Matthew Freud, Ms Murdoch is half of one of the power couples of London society. The Freuds hosted the London fundraiser for Barack Obama's presidential campaign. Guests at Ms Murdoch's 40th birthday party at an Oxfordshire priory included David Cameron, George Osborne, David Miliband, Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson. After the party, the Freuds flew to the Greek Islands and hosted a controversial dinner for Mr Blair and Rupert Murdoch on board their yacht, the Elisabeth F.
Educated at an elite college in New York state, Ms Murdoch worked first for her father's cable television company FX Networks. When he predicted Shine's sale in 2003, he was delighted with the performances of his sons Lachlan (then deputy chief operating officer of News Corp) and James (then chief executive of BSkyB). Asked if he wanted his children to succeed him, he commented: "I think it is a very, very human motive to see your work carried forward by one of your own."
Since then Lachlan has left News Corp, while James struggles to contain the ongoing scandal of phone hacking. Now he has another family option.
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