Last month Rupert Murdoch, chairman and C.E.O. of News Corp. and publisher of guilty-pleasure tabloid the New York Post, told London’s Guardian that newspapers were dead.
Classified advertising, he said, was in a terminal “slide”: “I don’t know anybody under 30 who has ever looked at a classified advertisement in a newspaper,” he said.
Mr. Murdoch was explaining to the Guardian his decision to load up on Internet companies: Intermix, Scout Media, Easynet. “It was a very careful strategy,” he said.
The business of print media had carried the 74-year-old across five decades and two oceans, from Adelaide to Fleet Street to his new capital, New York, and the New York Post. But his eulogy for newspapering was the unsentimental declaration of someone who plans to survive pretty much everything. In 2000, after being treated for prostate cancer, he announced to News Corp. that the experience had “convinced me of my own immortality.”
Even so, before this year, the world had begun sketching out a future without Mr. Murdoch. News Corp., it seemed, would inevitably pass into the hands of his firstborn son Lachlan, the stylish publisher of the Post. His holdings would go to his adult children, according to a trust established after his divorce from his second wife. Time would march on.
Instead, Mr. Murdoch reversed time. With his young third wife, Wendi Deng, he had already begun adding children rather than grandchildren. For the sake of those newest toddling Murdochs, Chloe and Grace, he began pressing for the trust to be reshaped, for his old farewell strategy to be scrapped.
Meanwhile, he was shaking up the corporate power structure, giving his heir apparent less room to operate, not more. In July, finally, Lachlan Murdoch quit his job and departed with his wife for Australia. His father declared himself “particularly saddened.”
But the company—and the city—belonged to Rupert once more. He had bought a new, incomparably imperial apartment, Laurance Rockefeller’s old Fifth Avenue place, for $44 million. To help get rid of his old loft in Soho, he and Ms. Deng posed for a sprawling layout in The New York Times real-estate section, which described the “Australian walnut doors” and “bathtubs and sinks carved from single slabs of Italian Carrara marble.”
For a spell, Mr. Murdoch even resumed the publisher’s seat at the Post, as if it were 1976 again. He was back at the soul of his business, where he had let play the brawling news sensibility that would grow into a global identity, the animating, deeply personal attitude behind Fox News and the London tabloids.
Print may be doomed, but Mr. Murdoch’s print-born perspective has become something enduring. “The UK Sun gets my keyboard-down vote for Best News Breaker of the year,” Matt Drudge—the Internet news clearinghouse and avid Murdoch-watcher—wrote via instant messenger. “Prince Harry and the Nazi outfit; Saddam in his undies. The very top year headlines. Don’t give up yet, Rupert!”
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