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News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch on Wednesday paid tribute to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who died Monday, calling her “an inspiration to my business life” in an editorial in his Times of London.
The media mogul always was known to be a fan of Thatcher and her focus on business interests, but the fact that he took the rare step of writing about her in one of his conglomerate’s papers drew attention in Britain.
News Corp.’s The Sun first supported Thatcher in the 1979 British election. And during last year’s Leveson Inquiry into U.K. newspaper ethics and standards, Murdoch had said he was a “great admirer” of the former conservative prime minister.
In Wednesday’s Times opinion piece, he said that Thatcher was responsible for many of his “defining moments as a businessman,” including the controversial crushing of unions at his newspaper company in the mid-1980s and the creation of the Sky pay TV service in 1989, which has since evolved into BSkyB. News Corp. owns a 39 percent stake in the British pay TV giant.
In the editorial entitled “The Woman Who Gave Us Back Our Backbone,” Murdoch lauded Thatcher for having been a risk-taker and called her “undoubtedly one of the most important figures of the 20th century.”
Saying that she drove the “rehabilitation” of a “dependency state” after two world wars, he wrote: “I found her attitude an inspiration to my business life — and never more so than when faced with the recalcitrance of the print unions in the 1980s. She ended a culture of crippling strikes, she encouraged entrepreneurs to come here and set up their businesses.”
Without the anti-union moves, “we would not have the vigorous competitive press that is a feature of modern Britain,” Murdoch argued.
He also said he faced much resistance when he launched Sky in 1989 and had to endure early losses.
“We took huge risks, which many critics decried as the end of civilization,” Murdoch wrote. “Mrs. Thatcher understood that risk was the vital ingredient in a free society. She chose the line of most resistance.”
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