Avram's Past

Rupert Murdoch and me

I met Rupert Murdoch many times in the ’90s. The character in the HBO Max hit show Succession is presumably modeled after him. I have been enjoying the show, although I dislike the people portrayed. While many of the superficial aspects of the show are similar to the Murdoch family, the main character, Logan Roy, is very different from the Murdoch I knew, at least with respect to personality.

Not sure when I first met Rupert. It was probably at the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, which I attended in 1994 and continued until 1999. Every year since 1983, a small but significant and influential boutique investment firm, Allen and Company, hosts a small group of some of the most influential business executives in the world, primarily from the world of media, communications, and finance, along with key media figures and sometimes political leaders. Intel was one of the top companies in the world, not just in technology. So, as the co-founder of Intel Capital and Corporate Vice President of Business Development, I become Intel’s “ambassador” to the world of media and communications. The Sun Valley Conference was like a summer camp for the elite. Executives came with their families. There was no press allowed, and security was high. Everyone dressed casually. Allen & Co made sure that everyone was comfortable. I loved meeting people like Wayne Huizenga, who founded Waste Management and had acquired Blockbuster Video. I loved the juxtaposition.

There would be presentations by executives. I remember a young Jeff Bezos who had been invited for the first time. He tried to defend Amazon’s lack of earnings. That company went public in 1997 but did not show a profit until the last quarter of 2001. Bezos was a pretty strange guy with an odd laugh. He said, “It is not about profit but prophet.” No one understood him. The funniest thing was watching all the billionaires line up to get swag bags.

Rupert was there often. I liked him. He was mild-mannered, relaxed, and easy to talk to. His two sons, Lachlan and James, joined him. At the time, he was married to his second wife, Anna. I don’t recall if she came to Sun Valley. James was very engaging. Lachlan was checked out most of the time. I don’t think he had anything meaningful to contribute to our conversations. I did meet Anna at least once when I visited Rupert in his New York apartment. I met his daughter Elizabeth once in London. She was the sharpest of the three kids I had met and the only one that resembled one of the children of Logan Roy, Shiv. Now that Logan Roy has died on the TV show, there is much speculation about who will take over. In the Murdoch world, Lachlan is the most likely to succeed Rupert, but I would be delighted if it was Elizabeth in the real world and Shiv on the TV show.

My most substantial connection to Rupert was via my dear friend John Evans who sadly died in 2004. John worked for Rupert from 1977, including running the Village Voice and many magazines and newspapers. When I met him in 1993, he was no longer working for NewsCorp but was still close to Rupert.

It was in 1995, I believe, that James Murdoch became interested in acquiring WebTV, which was a set-top device that was able to browse the Internet. Rupert wanted my opinion. I thought it would not succeed because people would not like to browse the Internet on their TVs. TVs at the time did not have adequate resolution, and people did not want to do this in their living rooms. So James did not move forward with WebTV. Microsoft eventually acquired it, where it floundered for many years.

One day, Rupert invited me to have lunch with him at his office at Fox in LA. I remember the office was full of TVs, and Rupert’s eyes would dart from one to another. He seemed to have difficulty staying focused if screens surrounded him. We discussed how to bring the Internet to China and the possibility of NewsCorp and Intel working together to accomplish this (something I tried later to do with Richard Li). The next day, I called him to continue the discussion, and to my amazement, he had no memory of anything we discussed. So I decided not to pursue this.

I have not had any contact with Rupert in close to 25 years. But seeing what he has done to the USA, primarily via Fox News, I detest him.


4 thoughts on “Rupert Murdoch and me

  1. You may recall that I worked at Allen for Stan who was his investment banker and Board member. Plenty of stories, but I agree he was nothing like Logan Roy. But I love the show!


  2. Fox News is no worse than the other networks. All have pushed opinion as news at times. Granted, Fox’s continued airing of false election stuff and vaccine denial went way beyond reasonable reporting of questionable (if not crackpot) opinions. But Fox has also accurately reported on stories suppressed by others (border crisis, Wuhan lab leak theory, Hunter’s laptop) that have turned out to have some validity. Fox News adds a counterpoint to the hard left reporting of other networks, and I think on the whole the USA is better off. In any case, I think it’s sad that your good relationship with Mr. Murdoch has devolved to “detest” because of your perception of Fox News.


    • Thank you for your comment and criticism. Both are welcome. I do not agree with your equivocation of Fox and other news networks. Yes, they all have their biases which is why I wish there was a voice on the right side that was at least the equivalent of CNN or MSNBC but there is not. I do not think the USA is better off because of Fox. I think the country is much worse off. I do detest Murdoch. Here is a man that is using his power and money to get more power and money and doing it in a way that harms the nation that welcomed him. He is a disgusting person.


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