K. Rupert Murdoch

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

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K. Rupert Murdoch (Keith Rupert Murdoch), the media mogul, is chairman and chief executive officer of News Corporation and the Fox News. He is also a patron of the American Australian Association. He is also associated with many right-wing political causes, and has had a long association with the tobacco industry through his close friendships with successive Philip Morris chairmen/CEOs (they formed a management troika): the Scot Hamish Maxwell, and his successors (both Australians) R William ('Bill') Murray and Geoffrey C Bible.

Timeline of Acquisitions
Rupert Murdoch (Doc Index)
Tobacco associates.
Hamish Maxwell
R. William Murray
Geoffrey C Bible
Bryan Simpson
Political friends.
Margaret Thatcher
Ronald Reagan
Key employees
Ken Cowley


Murdoch was born in Australia on 11th of March, 1931. Murdoch studied at Oxford and working in Fleet Street paper, the Daily Express. His father Keith Murdoch was a famous journalist who became editor of the Melbourne Herald & Weekly Times, at this time possibly the most influential newspaper in Australia. The Murdoch family owned shares in the Herald & Weekly Times, but its main media holdings were in the outright ownership of two South Australian (Adelaide) newspapers, which Rupert inherited.

History of media acquisitions

See Detailed history of media acquisitions.

Ties to tobacco

In January 1978 The Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid New York Post was said to be (maybe) the only newspaper that runs, almost daily, cigarette ads in color on its back page (the sports section's front page) and in its main news section. (See 1979 article by anti-smoking activist with the headline, "US mag kills controversial story.' "Don't look for all the news that's fit to print in US.' which says that the biweekly magazine of the New York Times had killed an antismoking story so as not to offend cigarette advertisers. (Blum) [1])

At about the same time Andrew Whist, head of Philip Morris Australia Corporate Affairs (the top tobacco industry lobbyist-executive in Australia) wrote to 'Bill' Murray who was then the rising star of Philip Morris International, then based in Switzerland. He tells Murray that they were having good relations with the Murdoch press in Australia. [2]

1980 Jan 23 Andrew Whist asks Mary Covington (ICOSI/Philip Morris) to pass on to Bryan Simpson (INFOTAB) the news that Bruce Comack of The Advertising Federation of Australia (AFA) has been in touch with Ed Greefe. Bruce Cormack was organizing a seminar in Surfers Paradise and wanted Greefe to speak. He says that Rupert Murdoch will speak on "The Missing Entrepreneur" and ...

One other speaker is Rossiter of Columbia University who will speak on the influence of advertising on Children.
Greefe would not be speaking as a tobacco man, but rather outline his ideas on how to defend an industry under unfair attack,

Whist is working with Gil Stone of Rothmans and Phil Scanlan of Amatil [which controlled WD&HO Wills, the BAT subsidiary]. He writes:

I undertand, confidentially, that Amatil, along with one or two other corporations, has something to do with Rossiters appearance.

[Note: There were only really three tobacco companies in Australia, so this is using a cute way of saying, "We" organised for him to appear.] [3]

In March 1983 Trevor King, the External Affairs Manager of Imperial Tobacco in London asked Martin Mulholland of Gallaher to help with an organisation of tobacco companies and newspaper executives. The Tobacco Alliance meeting with the NPA (Newspaper Proprietors Assn) was then set up between Bryan Simpson (of INFOTAB) and his old employer, News International. (Simpson had been recruited from Murdoch's Herald & Weekly Times in Australia, and claimed to be nephew-by-marriage to Murdoch). Murdoch also had influence within the Newspaper Publisher's Association in Europe, and parallel organisations in the US. [4]

Philip Morris's Media Relations division then relays the message:

"It is possible that contacts with Rupert Murdoch might come up during the discussion period. Vernon Brink and Andrew Reid both had lunch with Murdoch in London, and PMI met with him in New York. Advertising restrictions and taxation were the two main issues discussed. Murdoch has told Bryan Simpson that if anyone from RJ Reynolds will be in New York during the period April 18-21 and April 25-29 (1983) he would enjoy a luncheon meeting. [5]

Simpson also set up meetings for Mulholland of Gallaher [6].

With the assistance of INFOTAB (Bryan Simpson), a meeting between Fleet Street publishers and members of the TAC and all U.K. tobacco companies was held in London on the evening of April 26. The TAC mounted a very impressive presentation and after dinner a fairly robust open forum was held. It is hoped that a continuing relationship will be established. The host of the evening was News International of the UK. [7]

A month later the International Union of Advertising Associations agreed to work closely with Simpson's INFOTAB and the various Tobacco Institutes around the world. [8] and shortly after (Sep 19 1983) INFOTAB set up a conference with the [global tobacco] National Manufacturers Associations (NMAs). Bryan Simpson reported that INFOTAB has forged links with European Advertising Tripartite which includes advertisers, ad agencies, and media proprietors (led in the UK by Rupert Murdoch) See Page 4 (Presentation list) This is a long document [9] Mulholland of Gallaher was Chairman of TAC's PR Committee who thanks Bryan Simpson (INFOTAB) for attendance at Bruce Matthew's function [Note: Bruce Matthews, another Australian, was known as Murdoch's "Thomas Cromwell".

They are setting up a group to fight for the retention of tobacco advertising.

Even more, I would like to thank you for being the instigator of the whole affair and getting that ball rolling by Bruce Matthews with the obvious support of Rupert Murdoch. With only very minor exceptions I could not have been more pleased with the way the evening went and we, and particularly Mike Scott, have now the challenging job of following it all up. [10] [11] .. [12] ..[13]

Geoff Bible then in Sydney during November 1983, wrote to Ken Cowley (Murdoch's right-hand man in Australia) at News Ltd, thanking him for lunch. He also copies the letter for information to his Australian PR executive Andrew Whist in New York, and the local Philip Morris PR flak, Phil Francis (who later went to New York); The letter was also circulated to PMI Chairman Hamish Maxwell, and Whist then asked for a copy of Maxwell's reply letter to Rupert Murdoch to be sent to Geoff Bible. [14]. Months later News International's Rupert Murdoch organized a meeting of selected company chairmen and advertising principals on cigarette advertising (in late April or May 1984) [15]

In March 1985, Hamish Maxwell the Chairman of Philip Morris sent a memo to his executives asking them to consider: "How can we change the public's view towards smoking?" His senior executive, the Australian Bill Murray, was holding a round-table meeting of Philip Morris International executives to jolly up the troops, and he passed the question on to them.

"There are some 50 million smokers today in the US, I realize that research tells us that the majority of smokers wished they did not smoke and are, therefore, unlikely to be of much help to the industry. There are probably 5% or so of smokers who are ready to stand up for their habit and this would give us a body of some 2.5 million people. This is a large block of voters, even in a country as large as the US."

This idea is a direct feed into the Smoker's Rights groups which Philip Morris is actively promoting. He then introduces a range of ideas:

  • Other groups such as the National Rifle Association have been highly successful at protecting a seemingly impossible cause. They have found a way to motivate and use their members, and the politicians have responded.
  • (Corporate Affair manager (also an Australian) Andrew Whist then presents an idea which became Libertad (a sham global human rights organisation)
  • Commission a book on the 'anti-industry-industry', to promote the idea that the anti-smokers are money-grubbing zealots.
  • Discredit John Banzhaf (of the anti-smoking ASH organisation) by alleging he is involved in the porno industry.
    • "Dig around to find anomolies we can exploit."
  • Push the Kasten legislation through Congress .. "to provide some protection against exorbitant liability claims."
  • Create tort-reform coalitions with pharmaceutical, chemical, nuclear and food industries
  • Use our very considerable clout with the media.

    A number of media proprietors that I have spoken to are sympathetic to our position - Rupert Murdoch and Malcolm Forbes are two good examples. The media like the money they make from our advertisements and they are an ally that we can and should exploit. [16] ..[17] .. [18]

Murdoch was now a global media magnate, and he joined the Board of Directors of Philip Morris on August 1989. He continued to serve on their board into the late 1990s. [19] .. [20] In fact, under English Chairman Hamish Maxwell (a close friend of Margaret Thatcher - who was also close to Murdoch) and with the two successive PM Chairmen and CEO's (Bill Murray and Geoff Bible), Murdoch controlled the "Remuneration Panel" of Philip Morris which determined the Board members and top executives pay. This extremely powerful position and close personal relationship with the tobacco company executives appeared to serve both Murdoch and PM well. A 1985 PM internal report shows that information that could negatively affect the tobacco industry was routinely withheld from Murdoch-owned newspapers worldwide:

As regards the media, we plan to build similar relationships to those we now have with Murdoch's News Limited with other newspaper proprietors. Murdoch's papers rarely publish anti-smoking articles these days. To sum up then on using our natural allies. We have made a start: We have proved that it can be done; we have found that they can be a very effective force; and we intend to do more in the future. [21], and [22] and also [23]

This document appears to confirm a bias in reporting on tobacco issues by media outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Murdoch had a close friendship with the two Australians who successive ran Philip Morris: William ('Bill') Murray and Geoff Bible. Bible in particular was a close friend (He described Murdoch as his 'best friend'.) Both of these friends were placed on News Ltd. boards at various times.

Lachlan Murdoch (the oldest Murdoch son) decided he wanted to independently pursue his own career and left the News Corp. companies in July 2005 with a $10m payout (He also held $100 m in non-voting shares and retained a seat on the Board). However, Lachlan had an Australian wife and they were determined to live in Australia: which destroyed Murdoch's succession planning for his empire. The second son James (then nominally in charge of the satellite TV company BSkyB) needed to be hurriedly trained as Rupert Murdoch's successor, and the recently retired Geoff Bible was given that job (and the position of non-executive director of BSkyB). [24]

In April 2012, James was forced to resign as chairman of BSkyB following the phone-hacking scandal, in which he was implicated. [25]


Murdoch told William Shawcross, who authored a biography of Murdoch, that he considers himself a libertarian. "What does libertarian mean? As much individual responsibility as possible, as little government as possible, as few rules as possible. But I'm not saying it should be taken to the absolute limit."

Murdoch rejects any suggestion that doing business with the Chinese communist regime contradicts his conservative political views. Communist values to ingratiate himself with Beijing, he said: "I don't think there are many communists left in China. There's a one-party state and there's a communist economy, which they are desperately trying to get out of and change. The real story there is an economic story, tied to the democratic story," he told Shawcross.

Murdoch believes the criticism of him in the UK is attributable to his success in breaking the print unions and his success in establishing satellite broadcasting. "I'm a catalyst for change … You can't be an outsider and be successful over 30 years without leaving a certain amount of scar tissue around the place," he told Shawcross. [26]

While many attribute Murdoch with the conservative political views of his news organizations, some writers argue this is a misunderstanding of Murdoch.

Media website kaputa cites Richard Stott's criticism of Bruce Page's depiction of Murdoch, who he said "is shown to be manipulative, devious, bullying, ruthless and unscrupulous. But that just makes him a newspaper proprietor. What makes him special is that he isn't interested in the usual playthings of newspaper owners such as Beaverbrook, Northcliffe and William Randolph Hearst, namely political power for mischievous personal ends. For him it is the currency to secure a bigger and better deal or to consolidate current ones." [27]

James Fallows, writing in The Atlantic Monthly, adopts a similar view. “The real difference between Murdoch and an activist like Scaife is that Murdoch seems to be most interested in the political connections that will help his business … In short, some aspects of News Corp's programming, positions, and alliances serve conservative political ends, and others do not. But all are consistent with the use of political influence for corporate advantage. In the books I read and interviews I conducted, I found only one illustration of Murdoch's using his money and power for blatantly political ends: his funding of The Weekly Standard. The rest of the time he makes his political points when convenient as an adjunct to making money,” Fallows wrote.

Fallows points out that while Murdoch’s US news outlets were attacking Clinton in the late 1990’s they were backing the UK Labour Party leader, Tony Blair against the incumbent conservatives. One person interviewed complained about Murdoch’s use of his media outlets to advance his business interests which led Fallows to surmise “In this view, The Weekly Standard and the New York Post, neither of them profitable, are more means than ends”. [28]

In April 2004 Murdoch claimed in an interview with Australian conservative talk show host, Alan Jones, that the ability of individuals and organisations to cheaply publish on the Internet made concerns about the concentration of media ownership obsolete. “There is so much media now with the Internet and people … and so easy and so cheap to start a newspaper or start a magazine, there’s just millions of voices, and people want to be heard. And we don’t really have to worry … you know, the old ideas of it being too concentrated … I think that’s fading away,” he said.

Asked what he considered the major issues that government and others should address Murdoch identified education. “Well, we’re not spending enough money (on education), but probably … you know, we let the teachers unions set curriculas which … you know, don’t teach them the right things. There’s not emphasis on the … really the basic learning that you need if you’re going to go on in a college and into post-graduate work,” he told Jones. [29]

Murdoch and the British Labour Party

When polling indicated that the then Labour Party leader, Neil Kinnock, could lead the UK Labour Party to an election win, Murdoch's’ The Sun campaigned strongly against him. The front page on polling day proclaimed "If Neil Kinnock wins today, would the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights". Kinnock was narrowly defeated which prompted a self-congratulatory headline from The Sun: "It's the Sun wot won it".

In 1997, Murdochs UK newspapers – The Sun and The Times – backed Tony Blair’s “New Labour” against the Conservative Party which had been widely discredited after a string of scandals.

While Murdoch’s papers supported Blair in the last two elections, in November 2003 he signaled to Blair that his continued support can’t be counted on. In an interview with the BBC, Murdoch discussed his opposition to a proposed constitution for the European Union and a meeting he initiated with the new leader of the Conservative Party, Michael Howard.

'Let's just say we have a friendly relationship as I do with Mr Howard, and the jury's out … We'll have to see how the Tory front bench looks, [if] it looked like a viable alternative government, which it hasn't so far. And we will not quickly forget the courage of Tony Blair in the international sphere in the last several months, so we may be torn in our decision. So let's wait and see. It's a long way away, let's see what the Government is doing with Europe, let's see how Mr Howard performs, how the Government performs.'

Murdoch – a US citizen – claimed the proposed EU constitution would erode Britain’s economic sovereignty: “I don't like the idea of any more abdication of our sovereignty in economic affairs or anything else. We'll have to see what's in the final constitution, if it's anything like the draft then certainly we'll oppose it.” [30]

In an interview with Australian conservative talk show host, Alan Jones, Murdoch agreed that red tape was limiting business productivity. “If you want to see how bad things are go to Europe. I mean, that is just crazy there. You have your own national government to go through and quangos – and whatever you call them – and boards and then when they're finished with you you've got to go to Brussels and do it all again,” Murdoch said.

Murdoch went on to criticise Blair’s support for further integration with the European Union. “It can only be personal ego. You know, he's … oh, he's a friend of mine. We've supported him very strongly on Iraq. We think he's been very brave. He came in at a time when the conservative party had collapsed. But on this he just doesn't make any sense,” he said.

Asked about how governments could be prevented from passing more laws affecting individuals and corporations, Murdoch explained that his papers in the UK were campaigning to block further integration with the EU. “Well, I guess when it gets too bad, you do everything you can to change them. We're campaigning … what we're doing in Britain today, we're campaigning every day in our newspapers to get a referendum so it actually gets put to the people before they sign onto Europe or sign in any deeper and we're certain what the result would be,” he said.[31]

In late April 2004 in a major policy U-turn, Blair announced that a referendum would be held on the proposed EU constitution. Why Blair changed his mind, contrary to his strong recent opposition to a referendum, was the source of much speculation.

Some argued that the ongoing controversy was a major political liability for the EU elections in June and the general election, likely to be called in 2005. In a twist on the theme, some claimed that at a meeting in March with one of Murdoch's senior executives, Irwin Stelzer, that Blair was told that unless there was a referendum Murdoch would campaign against the Labour Party in the general election. It is a claim rejected by Blair's office. [32]

A few days later Murdoch told an audience of business people attending a Milken Institute business conference of his concerns about immigration in Europe. "The Muslim populations in France and Germany are much bigger proportionately to what they are in this country [the US] and they have made a very bad job of assimilating them," he said. According to the report he said that in the US most of the Muslim population had been assimilated though there were "pockets of trouble here and there".

"They [Europe] have major centres of problems that are just boiling up. Paris is surrounded by vast blocks of tens of thousands of apartments - all Muslim, all no-go areas for police and totally lawless," he complained.

The European Union, he said, was an "awful French socialist bureaucracy stuck in Brussels, which is deterring investment in Europe, which is over-regulating every business and everybody." [33]

Lance Price, who worked as a media adviser to Tony Blair between 1998 and 2001, writes that Rupert Murdoch "seemed like the 24th member of the cabinet. His voice was rarely heard ... but his presence was always felt." Price was required to submit his manuscript for his recently-released book, The Spin Doctor's Diary, to the Cabinet Office for vetting. He was surprised to discover that a third of the objections by Blair's staff related to Murdoch, reflecting the close relationship between the two. "All discussions ... with Rupert Murdoch and with Irwin Stelzer, his representative on earth, were handled at the very highest level ... The Sun and the Times, in particular, received innumerable 'scoops' and favours. In return, New Labour got very sympathetic coverage from newspapers that are bought and read by classic swing voters - on the face of it, too good a deal to pass up," he wrote. [34]

On global warming

Rupert Murdoch is a major equity share-holder in Genie Energy, where he is also a strategic advisory board member. Genie is a major investor in US and Israeli shale oil and gas projects. According to the US journalism watchdog Media Matters, Murdoch's FOX News has frequently run news stories promoting Genie Energy's shale projects.[1]

Murdoch has stated that climate change should be viewed with "much scepticism" and that humanity shouldn't be "building windmills and all that rubbish."[2]

All of Murdoch's news outlets push a denier line and provide an echo chamber of scientific misinformation. For example, his Australian flagship, The Australian, has run what is known as "The Australian's War on Science" in an effort to sow confusion about the science around global warming.[3]

On the Iraq war

In March 2003, Speaking at the Milken Institute Global Conference, Murdoch backed Bush government plans to invade Iraq. "We worry about what people think about us too much in this country. We have an inferiority complex, it seems," he said.

"I think what's important is that the world respects us, much more important than they love us ... There is going to be collateral damage. And if you really want to be brutal about it, better we get it done now than spread it over months," he said. [35].

In April 2004, days after major military clashes in Iraq, Murdoch wholeheartedly backed the U.S. government policy and dismissed the magnitude of the ongoing guerrilla war against coalition military forces. “We have got to see the job through. And I think it is being misrepresented. There’s tremendous progress in Iraq. All the kids are back at school – ten per cent more than when Saddam Hussein was there. There is one per cent more fresh water. There’s … most of Iraq is doing extremely well,” Murdoch said.

“There is one small part where the Sunnis are, which were the people who supported Saddam Hussein, who are giving trouble, and more by, I think, giving cover to international terrorists and people from the Taliban and from Afghanistan coming in. And it’s not - this is notable - they’re not really trying to kill Americans even, they’re trying to kill people, like, from the United Nations. Anyone who is trying to come in and help get their country going properly,” he said.

Murdoch had no doubt that the war in Iraq would have no impact on Bush’s election prospects. “They’re with him on that, completely. He’s going to walk it in. The economy is doing extremely well and, you know, there is an international crisis,” he said. [36]

In November 2006, on the eve of the U.S. mid-term elections, Murdoch downplayed the number of deaths in Iraq. "The death toll, certainly of Americans there, by the terms of any previous war are quite minute," he said. "Of course no one likes any death toll, but the war now, at the moment, it's certainly trying to prevent a civil war and to prevent Iraqis killing each other."

"I believe it was right to go in there. I believe that certainly the execution that has followed that has included many mistakes," Murdoch said. "But that's easy to say after the event. It's much easier to criticize the conduct of the war today in the media than it was in previous wars. I'm sure there were great mistakes made in the past, too." [37]

On January 26, 2007 Murdoch participated in a panel discussion on "Who Will Shape the Agenda?" at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. In response to the moderator asking if "News Corp. managed to shape the agenda on the war in Iraq, Murdoch said: 'No, I don't think so. We tried.' Asked by Rose for further comment, he said: 'We basically supported the Bush policy in the Middle East...but we have been very critical of his execution.'" [38]

On the Fox Business Network

News Corp. announces that it will launch the Fox Business Network on October 15, 2007. Roger Ailes, chairman and CEO of Fox News, will also oversee FBN. Neil Cavuto will be the managing editor. [39]

On February 8, 2007, Murdoch promised guests at the McGraw-Hill Media Summit that, "a Fox channel would be 'more business-friendly than CNBC. That channel leap[s] on every scandal, or what they think is a scandal,' he said." [40]

On education

In 2010, Rupert Murdoch said, "w]hen it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S." Murdoch now owns the company Amplify, a digital education provider.[4]

U.S. political contributions

Books on Murdoch

There are numerous books on Rupert Murdoch with those considered to be amongst the best being:

  • George Munster, A Paper Prince, Viking, Melbourne, 1985. ISBN 0670805033
  • Neil Chenoweth, Virtual Murdoch: Reality Wars on the Information Highway Secker & Warburg, London: 2001. ISBN 0436233894 (This has been reprinted in the US as Rupert Murdoch: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Media Wizard, Crown Publishing Group November 2002 ISBN 0609610384).
  • Bruce Page, The Murdoch Archipelago, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2003. ISBN 0743239369

A comprehensive listing of all the main books on Murdoch is available at http://www.ketupa.net/murdoch.htm

A comprehensive timeline on the rise of Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation is available at http://www.ketupa.net/murdoch2.htm


Articles and resources


  1. Murdoch-owned media hypes lone metereologist's climate junk science. The Guardian. Retrieved on 2014-07-17.
  2. Rupert Murdoch: Tony Abbott is an admirable man and Australia shouldn't build windmills and all that rubbish. The Independent. Retrieved on 2014-07-17.
  3. The Australian's War on Science. ScienceBlogs. Retrieved on 2014-07-17.
  4. , Donald Cohen,Bush's Education Nonprofit and Corporate Profits, In the Public Interest, January 30th, 2013.
  5. Board of Directors, Partnership for New York City, accessed December 28, 2007.

Related SourceWatch articles

Related SourceWatch articles

External resources

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Articles and Speeches by Murdoch

See K. Rupert Murdoch/Articles and speeches by Murdoch page split off 2011-08-15