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Top 10 Moments in Rupert Murdoch's Checkered Career

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Ahead of tomorrow's News Corp. general meeting, we look back at the mogul's big moments.

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"Not since newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst in the first half of the 20th century has one man had such means to shape mass media," said Business Week of Rupert Murdoch in 2004. But inside the closet of Murdoch's media empire were enough skeletons to fill the Halloween isle at Party City. Those dirty secrets would threaten to take it all away and create a scandal fit for the front pages of his papers. Now Murdoch, who still oversees the information brought into the living rooms of people in every corner of the world, might soon have control over little more than his own TV remote.

Tomorrow, a limited number of News Corp. (NWSA) shareholders will meet for the company's annual general meeting at a Fox Studios theater in Hollywood. In recent weeks, several influential voting shareholders -- including the California Public Employees Retirement System (Calpers), the California Teachers Retirement System (Calstrs) and Hermes -- have declared that they will call for an overhaul of the board, which could lead to the eventual removal of 80-year-old Murdoch as chairman.

Insiders are not expecting Murdoch to lose his seat tomorrow, however, as the family still holds 40% of News Corp.'s B shares that come with voting rights. Murdoch also has the backing of Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Alsaud, who owns more than 5% of voting shares. Instead it's expected that disgruntled stakeholders will use their votes to send a strong message to Murdoch, meaning he could be forced to step down within a year or two.

A recent circulation scandal in Europe has not helped the company's beleaguered board, but it was the UK phone-hacking scandal of the summer that has caused the current, dramatic uprising, with shareholders demanding that company directors be held accountable for the debacle.

The infamous hacking spectacle is just one of the memorable moments, shall we say, in the tabloid titan's storied 50-plus-year career, however. Here, Minyanville has charted his top-10 unforgettable milestones.


1969: Murdoch Acquires News of the World
In 1969, well-versed as a publisher of sensational journalism, 37-year-old Rupert Murdoch took his brand of scandal sheets to Fleet Street when he bought control of London's News of the World newspaper group. After winning a contentious bidding war with Pergamon Press' Robert Maxwell's, the Australian news magnate remarked, "The shareholders have judged my record in Australia, I presume, and they're hoping I can do the same in this country, with this company."

The News of the World acquisition was the birth of Murdoch's global media conglomerate that would come to count as its holdings the Fox TV Network, HarperCollins Books, 20th Century Fox, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and the Times of London.

1994: The Meeting With Newt Gingrich
What was "...the most insignificant meeting in the history of the world," at least according to Murdoch lobbyist Preston Padden, occurred on November 28, 1994 between his client and the US Speaker of the House-elect. What appeared to the rest of the country as a quid pro quo, a chat in Gingrich's Capitol office led to a $4.5 million offer by Murdoch-owned Harper Collins to write Gingrich's political manifesto To Renew America. In return, it was thought, Gingrich would take care of Murdoch's little FCC problem, with the Fox network under investigation for breaching foreign-owned network regulations and all.

1996: The Birth of Fox News
When launching a cable news network intended to serve as a mouthpiece for your right-wing agenda, who better to run it than the former Nixon operative who'd devised "A Plan for Putting the GOP on TV News" 16 years prior? In February 1996, Murdoch enlisted Roger Ailes to start the Fox News Channel, ignoring critics who said the network would be a sure loser against CNN.

Five months later, on October 7, a day when "For just a few moments early in the trading day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average peaked its head above the unprecedented 6000 level," FNC aired its inaugural broadcast to less than 20 million households. That night, the news items debated on the first Hannity & Colmes show included the first presidential debate between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole.

1997: Murdoch Inspires Media Tycoon Character in Tomorrow Never Dies
The 1997 James Bond flick certainly predated the Iraq War but its villain, Elliot "There's no news like bad news" Carver, who plots to create a war between China and the UK in order to write the headlines, is nevertheless cited as a portrayal of Murdoch. Perhaps the likeness inspired Murdoch, a staunch advocate of the Iraq War, to lead his ratings-busting "march to war" news campaign.

2000: The Election of George W. Bush
Many left-leaning Americans believe Rupert Murdoch, whose Fox network had a connection to the Bush family, had a direct hand in deciding our 43rd president. It was none other than George W.'s first cousin, John Ellis, head of the Fox network's election decision desk who, despite exit polls to the contrary and all networks calling an early but retracted call for Gore, made the decision to project a Republican victory.

With uncertainty and ballot chads hanging in the air, Fox retracted the call but the damage had already been done. A Bush win had become emblazoned in the American psyche with Gore/Lieberman supporters being labeled "Sore Losermans." Ultimately, the judicially conservative Supreme Court ordered a stop to the recount in Florida and handed Bush the election with a startlingly controversial 154-vote victory margin.

2001: Murdoch Makes Forbes 400, 2001
Don't cry for him, Australia. Rupert Murdoch may be down but he's by no means out. His career could end right now and he'd still be sitting prettier than most of America's 1% combined. In 2001, when Murdoch was still considered "plucky" with a $7.5 billion net worth, Forbes ranked him 21st on their list of America's wealthiest citizens.

2003: The Iraq War Bump
The world may have learned about the 9/11 terrorist attacks from CNN, but within two years, it had collectively changed the channel to Fox News for its information on America's invasion of Iraq. At the end of December 2003, Variety reported a 45% increase in Fox's prime time ratings over the previous year. The network was also distinguished as the only 24-hour news channel to make basic cable's top 10 list. The famed 'Fox Effect' continues to this day with 2010 operating profits of $700 million, beating out CNN, MSNBC and the evening news on NBC, ABC and CBS combined.
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