With his Chinese-born wife and two young daughters, you’d reckon Rupert Murdoch (77) would know a thing or two about staying fit and young-at-heart. And on the corporate crisis front, he’s been there before.
In an interview for ‘The Deal’, a new business supplement to the ‘Australian’, the News Corporation chairman and chief executive talks about a “worrying six months’ in the 1990s, when “we damn nearly ... went broke”.
Bank pressure when News Corporation was launching Sky television in the UK while funding new colour newspaper plants for the UK and Australia, caused a cash squeeze.
Having until then, only borrowed from banks, Murdoch says he now doesn’t owe banks a penny. “All our money – and we have a lot of it – is borrowed on the public markets, with an average maturity at the moment of 22 years,” he says.
“We were able to borrow 12 months ago, $1 billion for 30 years at around six per cent. Last month to do that would have cost us 11 per cent and today, it would have cost nine per cent.”
Murdoch says he sees opportunities – preferably in areas based on subscription rather than advertising revenue – but nothing big in Australia that “we would want to buy or be allowed to buy”. His tips for would-be media moguls? Build a portfolio which is balanced in terms of media, and geography. And “be passionate” about what you do and be prepared to sacrifice some luxuries and family life.
“We see ourselves more and more as a creative company,” he says.