A British banker once described for me what happened when Rupert Murdoch decided to make then-31-year-old son James the CEO of BSkyB, the UK satellite television company managed by News Corp. but in which it holds only a minority stake. (News Corp. is now trying to buy all of BSkyB.) There was a huge and predictable cry from other shareholders that Murdoch was autocratically imposing his son on the company. It was a tense moment in which the younger Murdoch might have been turned out and News Corp.'s grip on BSkyB loosened.
But then Rupert started working the phones--one of his underrated skills. When he was done there was hardly anyone in the City who'd ever benefited from Murdoch-related work who hadn't been called. Murdoch was like a politician: affable, cajoling, and, deftly employing the assets of his favor bank. In the end, what uprising there was among the majority shareholders was quelled and James was installed in BSkyB's corner office.
Rupert, I hear, is on the phone again. He's annoyed by the way the phone hacking scandal has been dealt with by James and his number two, Rebekah Brooks. James and Rebekah are circling the wagons, Rupert feels; they're acting defensive and guilty instead of strategic and political. He's worried also that News Corp.'s deal to buy the rest of BSkyB could be hurt by the hacking crisis.
So Rupert's taking over.
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