Sep 21, 2023 - Economy

How media mogul Rupert Murdoch made his billions

Rupert Murdoch

Murdoch attends the 2019 Vanity Fair Oscar Party in February 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. Photo: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Billionaire Rupert Murdoch announced Thursday he will step down as chairman of Fox Corp. and News Corp., ending his reign as one of the wealthiest media moguls of all time.

Why it matters: Murdoch, 92, built his fortune through a series of pragmatic and ruthless maneuvers that earned him a reputation as one of the most successful dealmakers in the media industry.

  • Murdoch, who will become chair emeritus of both companies in mid-November, has a net worth of roughly $8.3 billion, according to an estimate from Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

The big picture: The Australian native, who later became a U.S. citizen, never considered himself a Hollywood insider, despite owning one of the largest movie studios in America for decades. The news industry is his true passion.

  • His entry into the media business began in his early twenties, when he inherited a small family-owned Australian newspaper business after his father's death in 1952.
  • Murdoch expanded his print empire throughout his home country during the 1950s before turning his attention to the British media market.
  • His dealmaking made him one of Australia's top newspaper barons by the time he acquired his first British tabloid, News of the World, in 1968.
  • A year later, he bought The Sun, formerly the Daily Herald, and transformed the struggling, liberal daily broadsheet to the U.K.'s most popular conservative tabloid.
  • More than a decade later in 1981, he acquired another set of struggling papers, Times of London and the Sunday Times, adding hard news assets to his U.K. portfolio.

By the time Murdoch acquired 20th Century Fox in 1985, he was worth roughly $300 million, making him one of the richest men in the U.S., according to Forbes.

  • The deal to acquire 20th Century Fox, was made through Murdoch's ever-expanding News Corp. publishing empire.

Between the lines: Murdoch expanded News Corp.'s TV and film portfolio in the U.S. and the U.K. throughout the '80s.

  • He acquired a handful of U.S. local broadcast affiliates in 1985 and a year later launched a national broadcast network, Fox, to compete with CBS, NBC and ABC. He launched Sky TV in the U.K. in 1989.
  • Perhaps the most significant addition to his TV empire came in 1996, when Murdoch launched a 24/7 cable news network, Fox News Channel, to compete with CNN.

Be smart: Fox News became one of Murdoch's most profitable and influential assets. It has been the leader in cable news ratings for decades.

  • Fox News and The Wall Street Journal are considered Murdoch's crown jewel assets in the U.S. The two outlets wield enormous political power for America's conservatives.
  • Murdoch acquired Wall Street Journal parent Dow Jones in 2007 for $5 billion.

Zoom in: By 2013, Forbes listed Murdoch as the richest foreign-born person in the U.S., with a net worth of more than $13 billion.

  • Later that year, Murdoch split News Corp. into two separate, publicly-traded companies: 21st Century Fox — which included all of his U.S. TV, film and entertainment assets — and News Corp. — which included all of the company's global print publishing assets.
  • News Corp. retained HarperCollins, a book publishing behemoth created by Murdoch through the acquisitions of two book publishers in 1987. News Corp. acquired Move. Inc., a leading online real estate business, in 2014.

Murdoch sold all of the entertainment assets within Fox Corp. in 2019, including 21st Century Fox, for $71 billion. At 88, that transaction marked Murdoch's largest accrual of wealth in his nearly 70-year career.

  • Murdoch's net worth following the transaction ballooned to $19 billion, according to Bloomberg. But it decreased to about $7 billion, after he distributed the deal's proceeds among his children.

What to watch: News Corp. and Fox Corp. have operated separately on the Nasdaq for the past ten years.

  • The boards of both companies announced last year they were exploring a deal to possibly recombine the assets, citing the potential for value creation for shareholders. The effort was called off in early 2023.

What's next: A possible merging of the two firms last year sparked succession chatter.

  • His son, Lachlan Murdoch, will replace him as chairman of both firms, per Thursday's announcement.
  • Four of Murdoch's children — Lachlan, Elisabeth, James and Prudence — are equal beneficiaries of a trust that own a 39% voting stake in News Corp. and a 42% voting stake in Fox Corp.
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