tly three years ago this weekend, Rupert Murdoch was sat plonked in front of a group of disapproving MPs. The occasion was supposed to mark a profound chastening for the media mogul, who faced an intense grilling over the hacking scandal that sensationally brought down the News of the World.
Murdoch played along, putting on a compelling performance that could best be described as “doddery old man”. Yet his early interjection – that the hearing was the most humble day of his life – dominated the next morning’s headlines and revealed a mind that was still sharp enough to outwit a whole room full of irate politicians.
The outcome of the saga was a split that saw his publishing businesses separated from the broadcast-based, entertainment-focused operations.
The purpose seemed to be to protect the most lucrative parts of the media empire from the hacking scandal, partly to appease investors.
Yet the move now appears to have had a fortunate and presumably unintended consequence – freeing up 21st Century Fox to launch a takeover bid that would be more than 10 times as large as its record acquisition. The deal would result in a formidable content producer, and in its audacity trump the attempt to consolidate Sky across much of Europe.
Murdoch loves newspapers, and his pride was undoubtedly dented by the hacking scandal. But he also loves deals, and the resultant split of his business may end up looking like a blessing in disguise. There’s life in this old dog yet.