Murdoch sets up 'Future'

Take Davos, throw in a little Sun Valley and layer on your typical corporate retreat, and you’ve got “Imagining the Future,” Rupert Murdoch’s star-studded shindig in Pebble Beach.

Fresh off whitewater rafting at banker Herb Allen’s annual mogulfest in the Idaho mountains, the News Corp. chief has set up shop at the Inn at Spanish Bay. He’s joined by an impressive assortment of politicos and showbiz types, from Tony Blair, Shimon Peres, Bill Clinton and Al Gore to Bono and Nicole Kidman — plus several hundred News Corp. execs from around the world. Sen. John McCain’s on the list. So is Newt Gingrich, Los Angeles police chief William Bratton and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The A-list is a testament to Murdoch’s stature and international footprint far bigger than that of his fellow media chieftains. And to his political versatility — this outspoken conservative is hanging with at least a few tree-huggers and lefties. Gore will even be hosting a screening of “An Inconvenient Truth.”

But Blair is the big fish. The U.K. press has had a field day speculating that News Corp. will name the outgoing British prime minister to its board of directors or hire him outright when his term is finished. He has said he won’t run again. “Tony Blair could do worse this evening than auditioning for his next career,” said one paper.

Blair’s keynote speech, like the rest of the event, was closed to the press, although copies were distributed.

Blair’s ties to the U.S. and support for the war in Iraq have made him popular Stateside and with Rupe but given him headaches at home, where he’s constantly under attack.

“I have many opponents on the subject but complete inner confidence in the analysis of the struggle we face,” Blair said.

The Guardian was taken with another of his assertions — “that ‘cross-dressing is rampant’ in policy. What can this mean, or more urgently, what should be done to address this disturbing social trend?”

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