Conrad Black Rips Apart Michael Wolff's Rupert Murdoch Biography

01/17/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Rupert Murdoch is the greatest media owner in history because he built a little company into a huge one, cracked the outrageous London print unions, broke up the three-network US television cartel, pioneered the vertically integrated media conglomerate and satellite television, and created the multi-continental media company. These are colossal achievements and an interesting story, but Michael Wolff's The Man Who Owns The News is a very uneven read.

The author starts out in Charlie Rose mode (he describes Rose as "a deferential and often treacly host") and speculates that Murdoch enjoyed their interviews as much as he did. I doubt it. Wolff wades through a confusing and clichéd account of Murdoch's life, replete with factual errors, serious omissions, mind-reading suppositions, extreme psychological liberties, and the conclusion that Murdoch will be "temperamentally compelled" to try to acquire the New York Times, and buys newspapers "to change himself." I don't think so.

We are told by Wolff that Murdoch derived great "fun" from newspapers, but elsewhere that he is joyless, shy, hard of hearing, mumbles incomprehensibly, "unimpressive," and dislikes social contact; still elsewhere we are warned of his "deadly charm." Apart from being contradictory, these descriptions are much exaggerated.

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