Edinburgh TV Fest: Liz Murdoch Says She Harbors 'No Ambition' for Top News Corp. Job
EDINBURGH - "I really harbor absolutely no ambition for that top job," Elisabeth Murdoch, the daughter of News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch and chairman of the conglomerate's U.K.-based TV production firm Shine Group, said here Friday morning at the MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television Festival.
In a Q&A session after her James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture Thursday evening, one of the annual highlights of the industry gathering in the Scottish capital, Murdoch was asked about her possible future role at News Corp. and the succession issues that often get raised. "Shine is at beginning of an incredible journey," she said. "That's very much my home."
Asked if her speech Thursday night was not at least partly a pitch for the CEO or another top job at News Corp. whenever it should open up, Liz Murdoch said: "It was probably the opposite."
At the end of the session, she was also questioned if she could see herself playing some kind of expanded role at News Corp. in the future. "Not at the moment," she replied, adding that for now she wants to focus her involvement on her Shine work and her role as a shareholder along with the rest of the Murdoch family. She hopes the family members can be "positive contributors" in that role, but "that's really as far as I see it" for her role right now, Murdoch said.
Does she feel overlooked in the succession debate? No, Murdoch said, adding she felt "incredibly" happy with what she is doing and is her own person. ames consensus?
Is succession a topic in the family? Murdoch said people imagine her family's life more like a soap opera than it is. "The reality is really not that," she said, describing her family as "close." love my brothers and sisters. We are a normal famiy. we just have a little bit of a spotlight on us right now."
Did she ever discuss succession with her siblings? No, Murdoch said. "That's up to the board."
Asked if the consensus in the family and beyond is that brother James will take over the top role one day, Murdoch said: "The consensus is that James is an incredibly able executive" and "the one of us who has chosen to be within the company."
Last year, plans had called for her addition to the conglomerate's board, but she told the board that it would be "inappropriate" for her to join it amid criticism of the conglomerate's corporate governance following the phone hacking scandal, which led critics to lash out against the Murdoch family's control over the company.
Some have suggested the 44-year-old could take a board role or a broader executive post at the entertainment-focused entity that will be created if News Corp. splits its Hollywood-oriented assets from its troubled publishing operations. She also recently said she would next month give up her CEO role at Shine to focus on the bigger-picture chairman role.
Asked more about the past year, Murdoch said it was "a nightmare year for the family," but emphasized that it was, of course, worse for the victims of phone hacking.
She also acknowledged that she privately said that James Murdoch should step back and then-CEO of News Corp.'s U.K. newspaper unit Rebekah Brooks should resign as they did. But she categorically denied reports that she ever said that the two "fucked the company." She called that quote "made up" and "completely fabricated."
Asked about her brother's and father's response to the phone hacking scandal, she said "nobody would say it was a text book" reaction.
Asked how the family coped with the fallout, she said "we met as a family to talk about it."
During Thursday's speech, she had made some comments that set her apart from her brother James' and father's previously-expressed views. For example, she defended the BBC license fee paid by taxpayers, which her brother had attacked here a few years earlier. She also expanded on his comments at the 2009 TV festival that profit was key for entertainment companies to ensure their independence. "James was right that if you remove profit, then independence is massively challenged, but I think that he left something out," she said. "Profit without purpose is a recipe for disaster...Profit must be our servant, not our master."
Asked on Friday if she had meant to publicly attack her brother, Murdoch said: "It wasn't the whole story. I wasn't trying to directly contradict James. Something was left out." She also called her comment on profit "a truism."
Asked why she had said Thursday evening that she currently supports the BBC license fee, she said "I was suggesting I may change my opinion in the future" if things change and the BBC doesn't put its taxpayer funds to good use.
Could she become the first-ever woman to run the BBC? "Can you imagine?" Murdoch simply said while shaking her head and laughing.
Murdoch on Friday also shared two personal stories. One was about her excitement when she was accepted to an MBA program at Stanford. Her father told her: "You don't need a fucking MBA," she recalled. "Go to Sky and learn about digital TV," which she did.
Asked if she had any character flaws, Murdoch said "many," and "I have had many screw-ups." In that context, she told a second story about the time then-BSkyB boss Tony Ball sent her to LA to renew a content deal with Warner Bros. for Friends. When she saw Michael Jackson, the boss of the U.K.'s Channel 4, come into the building, she thought about going back into the room to offer a higher price. But she didn't and didn't want to wake her U.K. bosses. "We lost it," Murdoch said, adding that she felt she had failed the company and even offered to resign.