What Rupert Murdoch's life is really like: How the mogul grew his media empire and $7.35 billion fortune, weathered scandal, and became engrained in international politics

AP Photo/Julio CortezInternational media mogul Rupert Murdoch has a net worth of $US7.35 billion, according to Bloomberg.
  • Rupert Murdoch, 88, is one of the most powerful men in media.
  • Beginning with a regional Australian newspaper that he inherited from his father, Murdoch built a media empire that spanned three continents. At its height, the empire included The Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Company, 21st Century Fox, and Sky Television.
  • Murdoch used his media holdings to sway elections in Australia, the UK, and the US, an April 2019 investigation by The New York Times found.
  • Murdoch’s sons James and Lachlan fought a nasty, decade-long battle over who would succeed their father, according to the same report.
  • Murdoch has a net worth of $US7.35 billion, per Bloomberg.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In 1952, Rupert Murdoch owned one regional newspaper in his Australian hometown.

He went on to build a media empire that, at its peak, included newspapers, television stations, and film studios on three continents and was powerful enough to sway elections, an April 2019 New York Times investigation found.

Murdoch sold 21st Century Fox, one of his largest assets, to Disney in 2019 for $US71 billion, Business Insider previously reported. But while his empire may not be as large as it once was, it has arguably never been more powerful on a global scale.

Murdoch’s holding company, News Corp, owns The New York Post, The Times of London, and The Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Company, among many other assets. Murdoch, now 88 years old, currently spends his days at the helm of another News Corp property, Fox News. The media mogul also reportedly has a close personal relationship with President Trump and calls him frequently in the Oval Office, according to The Times.

Murdoch and his family have also never been richer, with Forbes putting their collective net worth at $US20.9 billion. Even after splitting his fortune among his six children, Murdoch himself has a net worth of $US7.35 billion, according to Bloomberg.

Read more:
Rupert Murdoch’s 6 children are set to become billionaires many times over thanks to a $US71 billion deal with Disney

Murdoch did not respond to requests from Business Insider for comment.

Keep reading to learn how Murdoch built his media empire and how he now spends his fortune.

Keith Rupert Murdoch was born on March 11, 1931 in Melbourne, Australia.

APMurdoch waiting to testify before the Senate Banking Committee on May 13, 1980.

Source: Bloomberg

His father, also named Keith Murdoch, was a war correspondent and ran several newspapers across the continent during the course of his career. The younger Murdoch took over the Adelaide News when his father died at age 67 in 1952. It would prove to be the beginning of his media empire.

Wikimedia CommonsThe Westpac building in the background in Adelaide, Australia.

Source: The Melbourne Press Club

Before entering the media business, Murdoch earned a degree at Oxford. As a student, he supported the Labour Party.

Facebook / University of OxfordOxford University. Murdoch not pictured.

Source: BBC News

At 22, Murdoch moved back to Australia to run the Adelaide News (known to be one of the elder Murdoch’s less prestigious papers). He quickly got involved in every aspect of the paper’s production. He featured stories about scandals, and the business began to grow rapidly.

Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesMurdoch in 1960.

Source: BBC News,Bloomberg

Murdoch purchased several other newspapers across the continent. Eventually, he controlled almost two-thirds of the Australian media market.

AP Photo/Rob GriffithMurdoch not pictured.

Source: The New York Times

In 1964, he founded the country’s first national paper: The Australian. “I’m rather sick of snobs who tell us they’re bad papers, snobs who only read papers that no-one else wants,” he said when confronted about his tendency to publish lurid news in his papers, according to the BBC.

REUTERS/Tim WimborneReader of The Australian newspaper.

Source: The New York Times, BBC News

Murdoch stretched his empire even further. He expanded to the United Kingdom in 1968 and purchased The News of the World, a weekly tabloid, that year.

Old editions of News of the World.

Source: BBC News

The next year, Murdoch also purchased The Sun, a daily tabloid.

Getty Images / HandoutMurdoch holding a copy of The Sun.

Source: The Guardian

According to The Times, Murdoch used his newly acquired newspapers to praise Margaret Thatcher, who at the time was campaigning to become Prime Minister. This marked a shift from The Sun’s previous support of the Labour Party.

APMargaret Thatcher.

Source: The New York Times, The Daily Beast

Thatcher’s government assisted Murdoch’s growing media empire by not alerting antimonopoly regulators when he purchased The Times of London or started broadcasting Sky Television into the UK from Luxembourg in February 1989.

AP Photo/Luca BrunoSky Television satellites.

Source: The New York Times, The Guardian

Around this time, Murdoch had started to spread his empire even further. He bought his first US paper, the San Antonio Express-News, in 1973 and purchased The New York Post three years later.

SupremeStacks of The New York Post.

Source: The Guardian

Much as he did with Thatcher in the UK, Murdoch used The Post to drum up support for Ronald Reagan in New York during the 1980 presidential election. According to The Times, Reagan’s team said Murdoch helped sway voters in that state.

APPresident Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan visit barbecue buffet during the annual Congressional picnic on the South Lawn in 1987.

Source: The New York Times

Reagan’s administration later dropped FEC select regulations, which allowed Murdoch to buy television stations in cities where he already owned newspapers, despite this being prohibited at the time.

REUTERS/David GreyMurdoch’s media dominance was assisted by the Reagan administration.

Source: The New York Times

Continuing his expansion, Murdoch first invested in film studio 20th Century Fox in 1985. He went on to build Fox into an entertainment empire comprised of local television stations and a broadcast network.

Eduardo Munoz/Getty Images21st Century Fox flag.

Source: Bloomberg, The Guardian

Later that year, Murdoch became a naturalized US citizen. This move allowed him to take full ownership of American television stations. At this point, he’d been living in the country since 1973.

REUTERS/Jason ReedMurdoch attends a panel discussion at the B20 meeting of company CEOs in Sydney, Australia, on July 17, 2014.


The Los Angeles Times

In 1996, Murdoch and Roger Ailes launched Fox News, a right-leaning 24-hour news network.

AP Photo/Richard Drew, FileAiles speaks at a news conference as Murdoch looks on after Ailes was announced as chairman and CEO of Fox News.

Source: Rolling Stone

According to The Times, Murdoch was inspired by CNN founder, Ted Turner, who he considered a rival.

AP Photo/John BazemoreCNN founder Ted Turner.

Source: The New York Times

Murdoch is known for his neoconservative views and used both his own media outlets and others to push for the War in Iraq. “We can’t back down now, where you hand over the whole of the Middle East to Saddam,” he told Australian magazine the Bulletin (which he doesn’t own) in February 2003, according to The Guardian.

Tech. Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock/US Air ForceSoldiers in Tameem, Ramadi, Iraq.

Source: The Guardian

By 2010, a major scandal had come into public view. The Guardian broke the story that Murdoch’s News of the World had been hacking into the voicemails of British politicians, royals, and celebrities creating what The Times called “the biggest crisis of [Murdoch’s] career.” The organisation faced repeated hacking allegations in the several years prior to the scandal unfolding.

Chris Jackson/Getty ImagesPrince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge during the annual Remembrance Sunday memorial on November 11, 2018 in London, England.

Source: The Guardian, The New York Times

In 2011, News of the World admitted to the hacking, offering up an official apology. Later that year, Murdoch was forced to testify at a public hearing in front of Parliament.

AP Photo/Kirsty WigglesworthSpectator wearing a Murdoch mask.

Source: CNN

A judicial inquiry followed. The Inquiry’s report, published by Lord Justice Leveson in 2012, stated that when discussing policy with Murdoch, “politicians knew that the prize was personal and political support in his mass-circulation newspapers.”

AP Photo/Frank AugsteinCampaigners from the community-based organisation Avaaz, wearing masks of Rupert Murdoch, right, and Prime Minister Theresa May, left.

Source: CNN, Gov.uk

Murdoch also publicly supported Brexit, calling the vote a “prison break.” He was later seen celebrating the referendum’s result at a party with British politician Nigel Farage, former leader of the UK Independence Party and current Brexit Party leader.

gettyNigel Farage.

Source: The New York Times

In early 2015, Trump told Murdoch over lunch in the Fox News building that he was planning on running for president, The Times investigators found.

REUTERS/Carlo AllegriMurdoch and Trump at Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 2016.

Source: The New York Times

The Murdoch and Trump families had been close for years prior to this. Ivanka Trump was one of five people chosen to oversee the trust for two of Murdoch’s daughters. In February 2017, a spokesman for the president’s daughter told the Financial Times that Ivanka had stepped down from her position as a trustee.

Leah Millis/ReutersIvanka Trump.

Source: Fortune

Despite the ties between their families, Murdoch didn’t initially throw his sizable support behind Trump. In fact, the newspaper baron donated $US200,000 from his personal funds to a super PAC for Gov. John Kasich in the last half of 2015.

Alex Wong/Getty ImagesJohn Kasich.

Source: Cincinnati.com

But Murdoch softened toward Trump as the election grew nearer. “If he becomes inevitable, party would be mad not to unify,” Murdoch tweeted in March 2016.

REUTERS/Brian SnyderThen-presidential nominee Trump accepting the nomination in July 2016.

Source: New York Magazine, Twitter

Meanwhile, things within Murdoch’s sprawling media empire took a turn for the tumultuous. Fox News CEO Roger Ailes resigned in July 2016 after facing allegations of sexual harassment from female Fox News hosts including Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly.

REUTERS/Fred ProuserFormer Fox News CEO Roger Ailes.

Source: CNN Business

Instead of finding a replacement, Murdoch took over Ailes’ job himself. He referred to the position as “my retirement job,” according to The Times.

Allan Tannenbaum/Getty ImagesAiles and Murdoch.

Source: The New York Times

Under Murdoch’s supervision, the Fox News lineup became more overtly pro-Trump. Hosts that were critical of the president, including Megyn Kelly and Greta Van Susteren, were replaced by vocally pro-Trump hosts like Tucker Carlson.

Richard Drew, File via APTucker Carlson, host of ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight.’

Source: The New York Times

After Trump was elected in November 2016, he and Murdoch began to talk frequently over the phone. In April 2017, The Independent reported that, per sources close to each of the men, the two were speaking “every week to discuss strategy.”

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty ImagesPresident Trump embraces Murdoch.

Source: The New York Times, The Independent

Faced with increasing competition from tech giants, Murdoch began meeting with Disney CEO Bob Iger to discuss the sale of 21st Century Fox.

VCG/Getty ImagesDisney completed its purchase of Fox assets in early 2019.

Source: The New York Times

Murdoch and Iger announced their deal (which was initially valued at $US52.4 billion) in December 2017.

MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty ImagesFox Studios exterior.

Source: The Walt Disney Company

In early January 2018, Murdoch tripped while vacationing on his son’s superyacht. He was flown to a hospital and underwent surgery for broken vertebrae and a spinal hematoma. Sources classified the hospitalisation as “serious.”

Lürssen Yachts/FacebookMurdoch’s superyacht not pictured.

Source: The New York Times, Vanity Fair

The severity of Murdoch’s fall prompted all of his adult children to gather around his hospital bedside in case he didn’t make it.

Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty ImagesMurdoch with his sons Lachlan and James.

Source: The New York Times

There’s been discord between the wealthy Murdoch children over the years. As of now, eldest son Lachlan, 47, is considered Murdoch’s heir apparent. Lachlan currently serves as the CEO of the Fox Corporation.

Drew Angerer, Getty imagesMurdoch and Lachlan in Sun Valley.

Source: The Washington Post

According to The Times’ investigation, Murdoch’s younger son James, 46, had unsuccessfully vied for his father’s favour over the years.

Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for National GeographicJames Murdoch.

Source: The New York Times

Murdoch also has two daughters, Prudence and Elisabeth, who are less involved with the family business.

David Moir/Reuters PicturesElisabeth Murdoch.

Source: The New York Times

While he recovered from his fall in early 2018, Murdoch ran the company from his home: Moraga Estate.

Courtesy of ZillowMurdoch’s Moraga Estate.

Source: The New York Times, Vanity Fair

The Tuscan-inspired Bel Air estate is a working vineyard and winery. It’s valued at $US28.8 million, according to The Times.

Courtesy of ZillowMoraga Estate patio.

Source: The New York Times

The estate was threatened by wildfires in 2017 but survived.

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty ImagesCalifornia wildfires.

Source: Business Insider
, Moraga Bel Air

Read more: Rupert Murdoch’s $US30 million Southern California estate is under threat from wildfires

Murdoch bought the property in 2013.

Courtesy of ZillowMoraga Estate exterior.

Source: Business Insider

While Murdoch recovered at Moraga, 21st Century Fox received a competing bid from Comcast for $US65 billion — over $US12 billion more than Disney’s offer.

Cindy Ord / Getty ImagesComcast offices. Murdoch not pictured.

Source: Markets Insider

Murdoch still preferred Disney to Comcast, reportedly because of his affection for Iger. Disney eventually bumped up its offer, purchasing Fox assets for $US71 billion.

Bob Iger.

Source: The New York Times, Markets Insider

Read more: What Disney buying Fox means for movie and TV consumers – from Marvel to Hulu

The deal grew Murdoch’s fortune. When it closed in March 2019, Murdoch became roughly $US4.3 billion richer than he was before the deal was initially announced in late 2017.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesMurdoch.

Source: Forbes

Murdoch’s net worth is now $US7.35 billion.

REUTERS/Lucy NicholsonMurdoch speaks at the WSJD Live conference in October 2014.

Source: Bloomberg

The media titan shares his fortune with wife Jerry Hall.

John Shearer/Getty ImagesMurdoch and his wife, former model Jerry Hall, attend the 73rd Annual Golden Globe Awards.

Source: The Guardian

Hall, 62, is a former model who was previously in a long-term relationship with Mick Jagger. The two had a wedding ceremony in 1990 that was later declared invalid.

ReutersHall and Jagger.

Source: The Washington Post

Hall and Murdoch tied the knot in London in 2016.

REUTERS/Peter NichollsMurdoch and Hall on their wedding day.

Source: The Guardian

Hall is Murdoch’s fourth wife. He was previously married to entrepreneur Wendi Deng, who is reported to have been unpopular with his children. According to The Times, Lachlan and James had attempted to convince Murdoch not to marry Deng prior to their 1999 nuptials.

cinemafestival / Shutterstock.comMurdoch and former wife Wendi Deng.

Source: The New York Times

In early August 2019, following the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that left 29 people total dead, the Post featured a front page calling on President Trump to “ban weapons of war.” The Murdoch-owned paper’s headline was noteworthy, considering the media tycoon’s conservatism and previous support of Trump.

REUTERS/Carlo AllegriMurdoch, Trump, and Murdoch’s wife, Jerry Hall.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

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