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High life

Beneath contempt

Broadsides from the pirate captain of the Jet Set

1 October 2005

12:00 AM

1 October 2005

12:00 AM


I can’t remember exactly how long ago it was, sometime during the late Nineties, but I do remember that at the time I was sort of running a section of the New York Press called ‘Taki’s Top Drawer’. I say sort of because I’m not exactly a hands-on editor. In fact, I’m no hands at all, a writer’s dream, even if I say so myself. Then one day I read about how a Murdoch rag had entrapped Freddie Windsor in a cocaine scandal, and blew my stack. Windsor I don’t know, and his mother comes across as an egregious braggart and phony, but entrapping an 18-year-old just because he’s related to the royals I found to be worse than shooting a healthy horse, beneath contempt and all that.

So I summoned my greatest writer at the time, Toby Young, and suggested we entrap Rupert Murdoch in return. Young was all for it. Murdoch was shacked up at the Mercer hotel, in downtown New York, with the Chinese woman he eventually married. But he was in the middle of negotiations with Anna, his wife of 30 years, whom he had unceremoniously dumped while claiming there was no one else involved. The trouble was I didn’t trust Toby Young. Not in the least. The owner of the New York Press back then, Russ Smith, wanted me to fire him because he had been caught red-handed making up a story and passing it as fact. My answer to Smith was, so what else is new? He’s a British hack. I settled for a suspension of three weeks, which was quite painful for Young because at the time I was his sole employer. Toby wanted to stake out Murdoch for weeks on end, or pose as a Mercer client and try to catch him in flagrante. Which meant thousands upon thousands of dollars in expenses while Young lived it up at the hotel in search of the Holy Grail in the person of Ruppi baby. I turned that down quicker than you can say entrapment.

I have since regretted it, but, let’s face it, Murdoch is ten times shrewder than Toby, and has 20 times my brains. We most likely would have ended up in the pokey for stalking the great man. Now I read that Anna recalls the time Rupert kicked her off his board by telling her, ‘You’re an embarrassment to everyone else on the board.’ Nice, as they say in the Bagel. Wendi Murdoch is also quick on her feet. Her first husband, Jake Cherry, was an older married man who, along with his wife Joyce, lived in China and had sponsored her in the United States while she attended college. Wendi lived with the Cherrys in California once they returned, until Jake told his wife he was in love with Wendi and both were kicked out. Jake and Wendi got married, but after two years Wendi moved on, as they say in Reno. Joyce Cherry says she disappeared once her ex could no longer provide for graduate school. Everyone, of course, ended up living happily ever after, except for Anna and the Cherrys.

Anna Murdoch Mann, as she is now, acted with great magnanimity in the divorce. Under California law, she could have taken the Digger for half his fortune. Instead, she opted to take a couple of hundred big ones in return for her children ending up with the moolah once Rupert is gone. The deal is now being challenged by him, or so people in the know claim, and time will tell. One thing is for sure. Murdoch makes the Scarlet Pimpernel look like the gang that tried to rob the Millennium Dome. Mind you, Larry Ellison, the chief executive of Oracle, is not far behind. In early 2001 Ellison sold stock weeks before the company reported that it would not meet its sales targets. His profit was around $700 million. Forbes magazine’s rich list awards Ellison ninth place with a fortune of $18.4 billion. A man with such an amount of moolah should be above suspicion, but shareholders sued anyway. Some of the lawsuits are still pending, but Ellison has settled the main one without having to admit he did anything wrong. It’s called a ‘settlement charity’, and he will put up $100 million to a charity of his choice in Oracle’s name. Nice work if you can get it, as the song says.

What the great economist Taki would like to know is the following: if Ellison did harm to the company by his trading, he should pay the company, i.e., the shareholders, not a charity of his choice. (He can do that freely in his own good time.) Incidentally, Ellison owns the world’s biggest stinkpot, the 454-foot Rising Sun. An appropriate name because when it comes into view the sun disappears until midday. The monster generates 48,000 horsepower and cruises at 30 knots. It burns more fuel than the average big town in Italy. But what the hell, more power to him and Murdoch. Ellison is proud that his boat dominates the environment. Murdoch is proud that his papers have changed the culture. One day soon, when there is no more environment to speak of, and there is no more culture, they will both be recognised as truly great men.

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