- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 31, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) Rupert Murdoch has built, bought and sold more multibillion-dollar media businesses than most rival executives will ever get their hands on.

But if he wins control of Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Co., as it increasingly looks like he will, it would fulfill one of the greatest ambitions held by the Australian-born media mogul.

Murdoch, who is a healthy 76, has spent a lifetime building a communications empire that now spans the globe. His News Corp. owns the Twentieth Century Fox movie studio, a large group of TV stations, the Fox broadcast network, Fox News Channel, the social-networking site MySpace and satellite TV companies in Europe and Asia.

Newspapers were his first business, however, and the one he felt most passionately about. Getting The Wall Street Journal not only lands him one of the largest-selling newspapers in the United States second only to Gannett Co.’s USA Today but the most respected voice in the business world.

Murdoch still owns plenty of newspapers, but nearly all of them are in his native Australia or the United Kingdom, where they range from the highbrow Times of London to The Sun, a brash and populist tabloid that prints photos of topless women.

In the United States, his only newspaper to date has been the New York Post, a feisty and well-liked tabloid whose gossip and business coverage hold great sway in the U.S. media capital. Murdoch has long tolerated deep losses at the paper in order to keep its voice ringing out in the corridors of power in New York.

With the Journal, which routinely wins major prizes for its news coverage, Murdoch and News Corp. will instantly gain tremendous clout in journalism and on Wall Street.

It will also give him an enormous boost of credibility and news resources as he launches a Fox-branded cable news channel in October focusing on business news, which is aimed at taking on General Electric Co.’s highly profitable CNBC. However, Dow Jones has an exclusive content-sharing agreement with CNBC that runs through 2012, which News Corp. presumably would want to get out of.

Murdoch has long wanted to own the Journal and says he has big plans for it. At a time when most newspaper publishers are cutting back in the face of shrinking advertising revenues, Murdoch says he would invest significantly in the Journal’s news operations, including beefing up its Washington coverage and its online and overseas operations.

Murdoch clearly sees the Journal as a greater potential competitor to The New York Times at home and Pearson PLC’s pink-colored Financial Times newspaper overseas.

However, a number of parties are hotly opposed to the idea of Murdoch adding Dow Jones to his media empire, including several members of Dow Jones‘ controlling shareholder group, the Bancroft family; a union representing Journal reporters; and former board member Jim Ottaway Jr.

Consumers Union joined in Tuesday, saying the looming sale “raises enormous concerns about the state of independent, competitive sources of high-quality journalism.”

Murdoch has said he won’t interfere with the Journal’s news coverage and will invest heavily in making it a better paper.