To: The U.K’s Parliamentary Select Committee on Culture, Media & Sport
From: Crazed Media Blogger & Reporter Doug Page
Re: Rupert Murdoch
Your report on the world’s most successful media CEO is laughable. In fact, it speaks more to the state of the United Kingdom than it does to the condition of News Corp.
The United Kingdom was once a proud country, with powerful commercial enterprises producing products purchased around the world and a military might that was, if not the largest and the best, certainly something to be feared.
Marquee British brands, like Rolls-Royce cars and Cadbury, aren’t even owned by your own citizens anymore. The former is in the hands of BMW; employees of the latter now receive their paychecks from Northfield, Illinois, in the good, ole USA.
Your country doesn’t even own a functioning aircraft carrier.
But let’s examine the root of the matter, Rupert Murdoch’s fitness as a CEO compared to a few others on the worldwide, commercial stage:
•Taking the stock down to new lows over the last few years, Gary Pruitt wasn’t fit to run Sacramento, Calif.-based McClatchy Co. but that didn’t stop Dean Singleton, who had put his own company into receivership (note to American readers: This is Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United Kingdom), from pushing to make Pruitt the next CEO of a major, international concern, The Associated Press. What sort of damage can Pruitt inflict on the AP? All I’ll say is this – at least the AP is a non-profit.
•What about Gracia Martore, Gannett’s CEO? It’s not like she’s leading her U.S. and U.K. newspapers to the next level, unless, of course, you’re using “next level” to describe one, perhaps many, beneath where you currently stand.
•Sam Zell was never fit to be Tribune’s CEO but the company’s problems didn’t start with him. His predecessor, Dennis FitzSimons, wasn’t fit to lead the company either. If he had been, the Chicago-based concern would never have changed hands. FitzSimons played it safe, forgetting that leadership requires daring. Under FitzSimons’ tenure, Tribune’s revenues stalled or dropped, the stock price suffered and the Chandlers wanted their money. Tragically, there was no alternative but to put the company into the hands of someone less competent than FitzSimons.
•Good things come to life says General Electric, but not so for its CEO, Jeffrey Immelt. He spends his days watching the company’s stock sputter. So there’s a solid case to be made that he isn’t fit to run this major, international concern. His predecessor, the infamous Jack Welch, increased the company’s value by about 4,000 percent. But all Immelt can do is cross his fingers that GE’s stock doesn’t plunge further. Immelt’s less-than- stellar track record didn’t stop President Obama from appointing him to his Economic Recovery Advisory Board. If he can’t push GE’s stock up, is he fit to provide economic advice to the president?
•Google stands a good chance of seeing itself in court, fighting charges of violating U.S. antitrust laws. So you have to question Larry Page’s competence as well as that of his predecessor, Eric Schmidt. Being CEO of Google — a firm that has no qualms about violating anyone’s right to privacy by the way — means knowing how far you can push the envelope before risking the ire of government regulators. Any trial over Google’s business practices will not serve its employees and stockholders well. In fact, the Internet behemoth could very well become the 21st century’s first AT&T.
Phone hacker and smut-rag publisher are insults easily thrown against Murdoch, and rightfully so. Other News Corp. business practices, as detailed by some media outlets, haven’t always been on the up and up either.
But when compared to many other CEOs — certainly the ones examined here — Murdoch is head and shoulders above his colleagues. He takes risks and the results speak for themselves: The company’s stock price is headed north.
In fact, when looked at over a 10-year time span – using Google no less – News Corp.’s stock price shows an upward trend that escapes McClatchy, Gannett and GE. Even Google can’t exceed its all-time high stock price, more than $700 a share, unseen since 2007.
The stock price is the only report card that matters for any CEO of a publicly held company. They’re charged with increasing shareholder value – nothing else.
Perhaps if Steve Jobs were alive, we could approach him about succeeding Murdoch. When it comes to discussions about increasing shareholder value, no one can hold a candle to Jobs.
So say what you will about Murdoch – to some, he’s the Richard Nixon of the media world and practically the devil himself – but he’s good at what he does.
Maybe that’s what you on the parliamentary select committee really fear: Murdoch’s acumen.