Saturday, January 16, 2010

Wendi Murdoch reported in Machiavellian schism

I don't know how I missed Lloyd Grove's behind-the-scenes explainer on how CEO Rupert Murdoch's son-and-law fired that jaw-dropping broadside against Fox News founder Roger Ailes in last weekend's New York Times. But it's worth posting here, even at this late date.

Writing for The Daily Beast, Grove quotes a family insider as saying that it was Murdoch's third wife, Wendi (left), who encouraged his son-in-law's attack in the NYT's page-one profile of Ailes. Matthew Freud, married to Murdoch's daughter, Elisabeth, told the Times: "I am by no means alone within the family or the company in being ashamed and sickened by Roger Ailes' horrendous and sustained disregard of the journalistic standards that News Corp., its founder and every other global media business aspires to."

The players in this corporate whosaidit: Freud (left, with Elisabeth) is a publicist in London, and a great-grandson of Sigmund Freud. Elisabeth, 41, owns a television production company in London. Her brother, James Murdoch (below), 37, is chief of News Corp.'s Europe and Asia operations, and the current heir-apparent to 78-year-old Murdoch. Grove suspects that James and Elisabeth share the same negative views of the powerful Ailes, and that Freud is merely giving them voice.

But Grove takes it too far when he spins Wendi Murdoch's motivations into Machiavellian heights. "Wendi is a skilled inside player," Grove writes, "and a possible result of this corporate PR embarrassment would be to undermine Rupert's confidence in Elisabeth and James, thus ultimately advantaging Wendi's children -- 8-year-old Grace and 6-year-old Chloe Murdoch -- in the inevitable successionary rivalry. It would help, of course, if Rupert hangs on as long as his formidable 100-year-old mother."

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