EDINBURGH — Elisabeth Murdoch, chair of the News Corp.-owned shingle Shine, said Friday at the Edinburgh TV festival that she “harbored absolutely no ambition” to run the media conglom, instead preferring to continue to build Shine.
“I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved at Shine during the last 12 years,” she said, during a question and answer session with media commentator Steve Hewlett.
She admitted she had lobbied for ex-News International CEO Rebekah Brooks to resign and for her younger brother, James, to take a less hands-on role in the U.K. at the height of the phone hacking and police corruption scandal.
But Murdoch, whose MacTaggart lecture at the gabfest on Thursday is being interpreted as a clever piece of positioning in her bid to land the top job at News Corp., insisted that she had never said that James “had fucked the company.”
Murdoch said: “That quote, which first appeared in the Daily Telegraph, was completely fabricated. When it was initially published I asked them to withdraw it.”
Hewlett pressed Murdoch on her views and feelings about the crisis that continues to engulf News Corp. in the U.K.
She said she had been “heartbroken” by the revelations that victims of crime had had their phones hacked by the News of the World, and that the past year had been extremely “tough” for the Murdochs.
She claimed the Murdochs were “a normal family” and that she enjoyed “a normal father and daughter relationship” with her father, News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch, who last year bought Shine for £290 million ($459 million).
“I love my brothers and sisters,” she said. “The consensus is that James is an incredibly able executive.”
Murdoch’s second oldest child recalled how Rupert had persuaded her to give up the opportunity to study for an MBA at Stanford University, and instead take a job at the News Corp.-controlled U.K. paybox BSkyB.
“Dad said ‘You don’t need a fucking MBA when you can learn about digital at Sky.'” recalled Murdoch.
She duly accepted her father’s offer working for then BSkyB CEO Sam Chisholm at the satcaster.
Not everything she did at BSkyB turned to gold.
Murdoch remembered how she was intimidated by Warners’ international TV topper Jeffrey Schlesinger during crucial negotiations to renew BSkyB’s contract for “Friends.”
“The more the negotiations went on, the darker his (Schlesinger) shades seemed to get,” Murdoch said.
“On the way down in the lift I saw Channel 4’s Michael Jackson going up.
“I should have gone back up and offered whatever was needed to outbid Channel 4, but I didn’t.”
She said she had been too scared to ring her then boss, Tony Ball, in what was the middle of the night U.K. time.
On Friday, News Corp. tabloid the Sun caused controversy in the U.K. by publishing a picture of a naked Prince Harry on its front page. Hewlett asked Murdoch if she would have given the green light to publish the picture, had she been in charge of News Corp.
Murdoch said she felt “bad” for the prince, who was a “young guy having fun,” but there was a “public interest” in publishing the picture, especially as it had already appeared on the internet.
In her MacTaggart lecture, Murdoch had argued for a more compassionate and ethical form of capitalism that didn’t always put profit before people.