Skip to content
Who's in the Video
Michael Wolff is a columnist for Vanity Fair and the founder of news aggregation site He is a two-time National Magazine Award winner, and his latest book, "The Man[…]

The billionaire media mogul was surprised that Wolff’s biography of him was so “personal.”

Question: Describe a day in the life of Rupert Murdoch. 

Michaelrn Wolff: It's an incredibly boring day. He gets up, he has his bowl rnof oatmeal, he heads to the office where he stays right up until dinner rnand then he goes home or there's some event, more and more, because his rnwife Wendy likes to go to events. Then he'll go out to an event of whichrn he will struggle to stay awake through and then he will go to sleep andrn get up again and have his bowl of oatmeal, and commence the next day. 

Question:rn Why did your biography make Murdoch so angry? 

Michael rnWolff: Well one of his key lieutenants called me up and said, after rnreading the book, and said, "But it's all about him." And I said, "Well,rn it is a biography." And then he says, "But it's so personal." Sorn I think that one of the things that happened is Rupert was just rnsurprised by the nature of the book. I really think... there was a pointrn actually I interviewed Rupert's mother who's 102 years old and she rnlives in Australia and I arrived there and she said, "Oh, it's very rncurious that my son is helping you with this book because you know he's rnnever read one." 

So, I actually think that this is part of the rnissue that he really was a kind of unfamiliar with what a modern rnbiography might be like and was rather anticipating sort of a recitationrn I think of his deals and the course of his career rather than a book rnthat tried to understand who this man is and actually give a taste of rnhis true character. 

Question: Have you reconciled? 

Michaelrn Wolff: We have not. I think the cold war between us has just gottenrn colder. 

Question: What was it like running into rnMurdoch’s son at a restaurant? 

Michael Wolff: Tense. rnIt was one of those moments where I think, well, James turned to me and rnsaid something like, "Oh, not you." And then there was a moment in rnwhich—I mean, James actually has kind of a hair-trigger temper and you rncould see him measuring whether he should fly off the handle or stay in rncontrol and he in fact stayed in control and I was with my son who he rnturned to and was polite and charming to, turned away from me. 

Question:rn You’ve said Murdoch’s moral center is different from yours and mine. rnWhy? 

Michael Wolff: I think his family matters, his rncompany matters, his newspapers matter to him. His moral center is rndifferent because he doesn't feel necessarily part of our world. It is rnhis world that he is a part of. I think he sees himself as relatively rnremote from the rest of us. He is in a sense a nation/state unto rnhimself and so his first interest is protecting his world. 

Question:rn Why? 

Michael Wolff: Remember, for 100 years the rnMurdoch family has been among the most important and prominent and rnpowerful families in Australia. So I think he's always had a sense of rnhimself as a person apart and as he's built his company, and he built itrn for more than 40 years, has been building this company in countries rnother than his own. I think that it has been a very key aspect of how hern regards everyone else and himself that he is not quite of the rncommunities he lives in. 

Question: What’s Murdoch’s rnfuture? 

Michael Wolff: Well the future for Rupert rnhimself is death. He is 79 years old; this is inevitable and that will rnbe the key factor in the future of his company. This is a kind of uniquern company because it's a very large company, it's a public company—but rnnevertheless is the expression of one man. It's about his interest, his rnobsessions, his point of view. So it necessarily changes dramatically, rnradically, and quickly when he's no longer there. One of the key focusesrn of his company, one of the key businesses remains newspapers and there rnare very, very few people in the media business and few people in his rnown family who believe that there is much currency or economic life leftrn in newspapers, whereas Rupert himself believes that they are continued rnto be singularly the most important influence in his life, our lives, rnand in the life of his company. 
Recorded on May 19, 2010
Interviewed by Jessica Liebman