Michael Wolff reveals how he secured Rupert Murdoch’s co-operation for his biography and discovered that this media titan has no interest in posterity. He is, at heart, a city editor
There is, on the one hand, the unparalleled global dominance in media and politics that Rupert Murdoch and his News Corporation have achieved. And yet, on the other, there’s an almost endearing attention-deficit lack of organisation and heedlessness that I witnessed in nine months of chatting with Murdoch and his executives.
The fact that I was talking so often and so openly with Murdoch was as good an example as any of the absence of planning and strategy that backs up one of the world’s greatest control freaks. Indeed, throughout the company, people kept saying to me (and among themselves): has he lost his mind, spilling the beans? Why is he doing this? What is he thinking?
The answer involves, I believe, News Corp’s essential business advantage and fundamental personality trait: Murdoch and News act without thinking very much. Or the only sustained thinking that goes on is about what he might be thinking. And that’s extremely hard because the man, contravening all rules of modern analytic management, acts almost entirely on impulse — his method is all based on instinct, urge, gossip (i.e. a more or less random collection of things he’s been told), and the impelling force of immediate and casual circumstance. It’s serious ADD.
It was during his takeover last year of the Wall Street Journal — a set of brilliantly executed strategic moves that occurred mostly without any kind of analysis about why he might be buying it and what he would be getting after he owned it — that Murdoch and I began our interviews. I had written a piece on the takeover for Vanity Fair, dressing down his enemies (i.e.