Rupert Murdoch Makes His Crazy Last Stand

03/27/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Well, Rupert has guts. With the share price of News Corp. at its lowest level in years, Rupert Murdoch has allowed Peter Chernin, the company's No. 2, the manager of its entertainment divisions, which are the company's biggest revenue streams, and a Wall Street favorite, to walk away.

I wrote the other day that Chernin would probably stay on, that Murdoch, cowed like everyone else by the financial crisis and an unforgiving market, would give his most important executive what he wanted. I was wrong, as so many people have been, for doubting the old man.

The contract issue was straightforward: Chernin wanted Murdoch's word that if Murdoch departed (carried out or otherwise), Chernin would get his job. That's the deal they struck four years ago when Chernin's contract was renewed.

But now Murdoch, at 78, wants to know that if he goes, one of his children--likely his son James--will take over.

So it's an actuarial issue.

But it's also a philosophical issue. It's about newspapers. Indeed, there's a special irony in the Times writing about the negative impact Rupert's love of newspapers has on the share price of his company, since it's the Times itself that Rupert wants most.

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