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"I played with him as a boy ... I know him. He cannot be trusted. It's always the same. Everybody thinks that this time he'll behave. But it will never work."

Ranald MacDonald, cousin & rival Australian newspaper publisher, quoted in Thomas Kiernan, Citizen Murdoch, Dodd, Mead, 1986, p.16

"In his presence it was barely possible to believe he would break his word; away from him, it was barely possible to believe he would keep it. He was incontinent in breach of promise ... Murdoch is like the philanderer who convinces each new girl that she's the one who'll change him."

Harold Evans, Good Times, Bad Times, Weidenfeld, 1983, pp.176-7

"One thing you must understand, Tom," Murdoch told the biographer Thomas Kiernan in 1981, while negotiating to buy Times Newspapers. "You tell these bloody politicians whatever they want to hear, and once the deal is done you don't worry about it. They're not going to chase after you later if they suddenly decide what you said wasn't what they wanted to hear. Otherwise they're made to look bad, and they can't abide that. So they just stick their heads up their asses and wait for the blow to pass."

Thomas Kiernan, Citizen Murdoch, Dodd, Mead, 1986, p.238


Rupert Murdoch's career is littered with broken promises. He will happily say one thing while bidding to buy some institution, and then renege on the agreement later. The sources for the examples that follow are the several biographies and books that have been written about Murdoch. These include the most recent biography by William Shawcross, Rupert Murdoch (Chatto & Windus, 1992), which was criticised by several critics for being too sympathetic to Murdoch. Other sources include the accounts by two distinguished former editors of The Times and Sunday Times - Harold Evans' book, Good Times, Bad Times (Weidenfeld, 1983) and Andrew Neil's Full Disclosure, (Pan Books, 1997). We have also consulted biographies by Michael Leapman, Barefaced Cheek (Coronet, 1983) and Thomas Kiernan, Citizen Murdoch, (Dodd, Mead, 1986).

News of the World, 1969

While bidding to buy the News of the World in 1969, Rupert Murdoch made several written assurances to the paper's main owners, the Carr family, who chose to support Murdoch rather than his arch-rival bidder, Robert Maxwell. He promised not to seek to increase his shareholding above 40%; that Clive Carr could remain joint managing director with him, and that a member of the Carr family would remain chairman for the forseeable future.

Once he had bought the paper, he reneged on the agreement that Carr could be joint-MD, and then Sir William Carr was forced out as chairman. And within a month of the deal, Murdoch bought more shares, taking his stake well above 40%. "The Carrs felt that they had been betrayed," says William Shawcross.

Sources: Leapman, pp.48-64; Shawcross, pp.130-47

Village Voice, 1977

In 1977 RM acquired the New York magazine the Village Voice, and promised to retain the editor, Marrianne Partridge for at least two years. Within three weeks of buying the magazine, Murdoch had asked Partridge to resign.

Sources: Leapman, p.115; Shawcross, p.184

Channel 10, Sydney, 1979

When bidding for Channel 10, Sydney, in 1979, Rupert Murdoch promised the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal that "it would be madness to contemplate any changes at all" at the station, that there would be no management changes, and that Channel 10's "magnificent"chairman, Sir Kenneth Humphreys, would remain. "Channel 10 will continue exactly as it is today," he said And there was "no substance", he insisted to the rumour he was trying to buy Channel 0 in Melbourne. Within two weeks of acquiring Channel, however, the manager was replaced, and not long afterwards Humphreys resigned. Within months Murdoch had also bought Channel 0 in Melbourne.

Sources: Evans, p.176; Shawcross, pp.204-5; Kiernan, p.237

Murdoch told the same tribunal hearing that he had no intention of becoming an American citizen. In 1985 he did so.

Source: Shawcross. p.205

Times Newspapers, 1981-2

When Murdoch took over The Times & the Sunday Times in 1981 he agreed to make a number of guarantees in order to avoid a reference to the Monopolies Commission. These included a pledge to give his editors complete editorial independence, that the newspapers should remain separate from the rest of his company, News International, and that ownership of the titles should not be transfered without approval from the independent directors. In December 1981, at a board meeting without the independent directors present, it was decided to transfer ownership of the titles to News International. After Harold Evans was sacked as editor of The Times in March 1982, he revealed numerous examples of editorial interference by Murdoch.

Sources: Evans; Leapman, pp.235-85; Shawcross, pp.244-55

The Electricians Union, late 1980s

When Rupert Murdoch famously moved production of all his London newspapers to Wapping in 1986, it was widely recognised that he could never have done so without secret co-operation from the electricians union, the EETPU, whose members agreed to man the new presses at Wapping in place of the old print unions. This was at considerable physical risk to the EETPU members concerned, and caused the union to become the pariah of the British trade union movement. According to the former editor of the Sunday Times, Andrew Neil, the electricians' union leader, Eric Hammond thought he had a deal with Murdoch that eventually News Corporation would grant the EETPU bargaining rights on all its papers. Neil quotes Murdoch's deputy Bruce Matthews saying he knew Murdoch would 'renege on the arrangement'. He did.

Source: Neil, p.122 & pp.230-2

Andrew Neil, 1994

In 1994, while easing Andrew Neil out of the editorship of the Sunday Times, Rupert Murdoch promised Neil he could become editor & co-host (or chief reporter) on a new weekly news magazine programme Murcoch was planning on Fox TV in America. On arriving in the US, Neil found he had to share the editor's hjob woth someone else; he was then taken off-screen and finally the show was cancelled altogether. "I had a right to feel angry," wrote Neil, "that he had reneged on his side of the bargain when he asked me to come to America, that he had not delivered on promises so easily given in London."

Source: Neil, p.581

HarperCollins 1981-98

In 1981 Rupert Murdoch bought a 41.7% stake in Collins publishers, and assured Collins deputy chairman, Ian Chapman, that he would not make a hostile bid for the whole company or seek to dictate editorial policy. In 1988 he mounted a hostile bid for the rest of Collins, and even Murdoch's solicitor, Lord Goodman, admitted he had broken his word. The Collins board eventually capitulated and recommended Murdoch's bid to the the shareholders. Chapman announced they had "received assurances we sought regarding Collins's autonomy and editorial freedom," and the firm then merged with Harper & Row to form HarperCollins.

In 1998 HarperCollins cancelled its book contract with the former Hong Kong governor, Chris Patten, after Murdoch had expressed "displeasure" with his staff for signing the contract. It was widely reported that Murdoch felt the book would offend the Chinese and upset his other business interests in China.

Sources: Shawcross, p.433-6; Daily Telegraph, 27 February;
Independent on Sunday
, 1 March 2020