Now you’ve caught up with the Maxwells – including shamed daughter Ghislaine – it’s time for another helping of Big M… the Murdochs.
It seems only weeks since the BBC’s doco and its Australian counterpart’s more controversial Four Corners expose, but stand by for more. This time it’s CNN with a six- series, ‘The Murdochs: Empire of Influence’ set to air on CNN Plus.
The brief is pretty broad but centres on the willingness of Rupert Murdoch – now aged 91 – to sell Twentieth Century Fox, which it presents as a vote of no confidence in his heirs.
It is however, an opportunity to catch up with some of the media mogul’s children – from Patricia Booker’s daughter Prudence to Wendi Murdoch’s girls, Grace and Chloe – and speculate on the part they may come to play when the multi-billion-dollar empire is passed on and perhaps split up.
As CNN itself claims, “the story behind the ruthless business tactics, political manouvering and dynastic family battles that have gone into the making of this media powerhouse would be perfect fodder for one of the News Corp news outlets or TV channels, if it were not about Rupert himself”.
Though now an American citizen, Murdoch is still the Aussie hero made good (or the “dirty Digger” who bought and wrecked The Times of London, depending on your point of view).
Left the now-defunct Adelaide News by his father, he acquired the Australian newspaper group for which his father worked, and went on to build the conglomerate into one of the world’s largest media businesses, notwithstanding the occasional hiccup. One of these was a shortage of cash which might have led to News’ collapse but for refinancing and rescheduling (including a delay in the installation of the Brisbane Courier-Mail’s colour presses).
The new documentary traces Murdoch’s four marriages and the couples’ six children, probing what is called his penchant for pitting them against each other to see who will succeed him, widely thought to be the inspiration for HBO’s ‘Succession’ series.
Front and centre are Lachlan Murdoch (50) and younger brother James (49), and perhaps their sister Elisabeth – Murdoch's second child – now 53, but Rupert’s two youngest children Grace and Chloe (by his third wife, Wendi Deng) are now 20 and 18 and unlikely to want to be ignored even though his marriage to their mother broke up. Nor should Prudence Macleod – Rupert's oldest child from his first marriage – be, as the holder of voting shares, and with various positions at News and as a director of Times Newspapers to her credit.
Anyway, you know the rest. ‘The Murdochs: Empire of Influence’ is expected to stream on CNN Plus in coming weeks. It was produced with the New York Times and Left/Right, and is based on an article from the New York Times Magazine, whose authors Jonathan Mahler and Jim Rutenberg serve as consulting producers.