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King Murdoch – and why Rupert is magnificent

Anyone who has ever said business is less interesting than sport has got to have his or her head tested. And if you add family business into the mix, then things get even zippier.

Anyone who has ever said business is less interesting than sport has got to have his or her head tested. And if you add family business into the mix, then things get even zippier.

In time to come, a movie will be made about the life of Rupert Murdoch and – even if it’s most unlikely Fox Searchlight will be the studio that makes it – it has the potential to follow Citizen Kane with which it has many fascinating parallels.

The speed and narrative arc of the denouement of the Murdoch clan is right up there with Shakespeare. Most obviously King Lear. It’s got everything: the king in his dotage being put under pressure and not responding with the clearest of heads. The ruin that will befall the empire if he falls. It’s got the blameless daughter Elizabeth – Cordelia – who speaks truth to the old boy: “It’s James’s fault, pop, he’s screwed the company!” Not sure that’s an iambic pentameter but never mind.

OK Lachlan and James are not the same sex as Goneril and Regan but put ‘em in a pair of frocks and you’ll get my drift. And who is the Fool? Step forward Wendi Deng who, of course, is anything but a fool and speaks the truth as she sees it – right down to persuading Rupert that dying his hair dark orange himself in the bathroom basin isn’t not doing his image any favours.

What's compelling about Murdoch, as the noose tightens around his ageing neck, is his rage. He's clearly incandescent at the treatment he feels he's been unjustly receiving on this UK side of the Atlantic – the police inquiry into the News of the Screws, the jeering, the revenge of the British leftie and now the perfidious Cameron-inspired Leveson inquiry – in front of which he is due to appear with the wastrel James in the next few weeks. Who won’t be watching that live from Westminster?

So from the quiet of his New York apartment – prodding away with a bony finger on his newfound toy the iPad, personally introduced to him by Steve Jobs – he lets rip with the likes of this on Twitter.

“Enemies many different agendas, but worst old toffs and right wingers who still want last century's status quo with their monopolies.” Then he gets the reduced link wrong, so his 212,000 followers try to click through but - because he’s ballsed it up - cannot.

Then this: “Seems every competitor and enemy piling on with lies and libels. So bad, easy to hit back hard, which preparing.”

You couldn’t make it up, could you? He’s like the old Lear roaring: “I shall do such things, I know not yet what they are, but they shall be the terror of the earth!” Yes, of course you will, Rupert. Now just allow Wendi to help you into bed where you can calm down a little.

I, for one, do not welcome the prospect of his demise with any gladness. What he’s achieved is down to News Corp being essentially a family business and the pros currently still outweigh the cons, although a very messy unravelling is now in prospect. As a journalist I believe he’s one of the few proprietors left who sees content as anything other than commoditised product. The horror of being owned by a porn baron, an oligarch or men of the shadows from Sark remains far worse than having Rupert as your boss. He is a magnificent individual with all the caveats that epithet encompasses. So, "Mend your speech a little, Gwyther, Lest it may mar your fortunes." 

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