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Wednesday, 28 March, 2001, 09:16 GMT 10:16 UK
Murdoch: Still going strong at 70
Rupert Murdoch and Wendy Deng
Murdoch married his third wife Wendy Deng in 1999
By BBC News Online's Helen Bushby

For a man who has amassed a sprawling global media empire, is worth a fortune and has starred in The Simpsons, Rupert Murdoch is not doing too badly for 70.

The media mogul, who has officially been a pensioner for five years already, is showing no signs of stopping, not least because he seems to take great pleasure in defying his critics.

He made his first impact on these shores back in 1968 as a young Australian when he bought his first newspaper - the News of the World.

The Oxford-educated Murdoch had already inherited a taste for the press from his father, Sir Keith, one of Australia's most distinguished newspapermen.

Murdoch was left a half-share in two Adelaide papers, giving him a taste of media ownership - something he patently thrives on.

Simpsons
Murdoch makes the big time... on The Simpsons
Having bought the News of the World, Murdoch capitalised on its reputation for scandal by serialising the memoirs of Christine Keeler, the prostitute whose liaison with a minister helped bring down the government of Harold Macmillan.

He then decided to add another title to his stable - The Sun.

The ailing broadsheet was soon transformed into a somewhat perkier tabloid, buoyed up by a combination of sport, populist politics and topless women.

By the early 80s, Murdoch was in a position to buy the loss-making newspaper The Times, along with its more profitable sister title, The Sunday Times.

As well as turning The Times into a successful broadsheet, Murdoch also took on the unions, who had previously dominated newspaper production.

David Beckham
Murdoch failed in bid to buy Manchester United
The militant unions had cut papers' profitability and restricted the number of pages they could print. By the mid-1980s, Murdoch decided to take them on.

He secretly moved his four national newspapers to a new plant in Wapping, east London, which used computerised technology.

This resulted in disputes between police and pickets which lasted for months, reinforcing his reputation as a hate-figure among the left.

But he stuck it out and won the battle, and not just for himself - as well as increasing his papers' profits, he also enabled his rivals to introduce the new technology.

Murdoch ploughed the money back into his other media ventures, not least those around the globe.

Chris Patten
Chris Patten's book was dropped by Murdoch's publishers
He began to invest heavily in the US and took American citizenship to further his business interests there, establishing himself in TV and challenging ABC, NBC and CBS with his own network Fox.

He focused on the youth market, showing hits such as Matt Groening's The Simpsons, which helped ensure Fox's success.

Although his attempts to break into UK TV had been rebuffed during the 1970s and 1980s, he still had his sights firmly set on satellite.

In 1989, he launched Sky TV, shortly before an officially-backed rival service called British Satellite Broadcasting. The two companies ended up merging into BSkyB the following year after much rivalry, with Murdoch firmly in charge.

Football bid

But the combined losses were an unbelievable 10m a week - it nearly ended Murdoch's empire. But Murdoch relished the challenge, taking a populist approach with BSkyB. It worked.

Movies and sport began to attract viewers, but the profits really rolled in when BSkyB beat ITV to the TV rights to football's Premier League. Fans now had to pay a subscription fee to watch live football.

Despite his business successes, Murdoch has not been able to get everything he wanted - in 1998, BSkyB was barred from taking over one of Europe's largest clubs, Manchester United.

The Department of Trade and Industry ruled the move would have given BSkyB advantages over other broadcasters over future sales of Premiership broadcasting rights.

China row

And in May 1999, the Office of Fair Trading ruled News International, which owned The Times, had been conducting anti-competitive practices. But it said it was not guilty of the more serious offence of predatory pricing.

Murdoch also had to settle a row between himself and the now former governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten back in 1998.

Murdoch's publishing company HarperCollins unreservedly apologised to Patten, for saying a book he had written on China was too boring to be published.

Lawyers for the two sides said they had reached an out-of-court settlement, but would not reveal the details.

Personal life

Mr Patten had caused a furore with his accusations that HarperCollins had tried to censor his book, which was critical of the Chinese government.

Human rights activists also vented their spleens against Murdoch for supposedly calling the Dalai Lama "a very political old monk shuffling around in Gucci shoes".

His relations with politicians have been rather less frosty, notably with the Blair government - the Sun, which has traditionally been a Labour critic, supported the party at the last election.

Although he has had his share of headlines for his business acquisitions, Murdoch's personal life occasionally creates a stir.

In 1999 he married 32-year-old Wendy Deng, his third wife. And in April last year, he underwent treatment for "low grade" prostate cancer.

But despite his health scare, it looks as if Murdoch is here to stay. He does not appear to have any intention of putting his feet up and retiring.

See also:

26 Jun 99 | Entertainment
Murdoch ties the knot
25 Mar 99 | e-cyclopedia
Tax free: Rupert Murdoch's zero status
07 Sep 99 | Asia-Pacific
Anger over Murdoch's Tibet comments
16 Apr 00 | Americas
Media tycoon Murdoch has cancer
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