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What If Rupert Murdoch Really Is Unstoppable -- and Immortal?

If the Media Mogul Really Wants to Buy Time Warner, Nothing Can Stop Him

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Rupert Murdoch owns most of the top four floors of One Madison
Rupert Murdoch owns most of the top four floors of One Madison Credit: The Related Companies

Rupert Murdoch appears to be convinced that not only will he live forever, but eventually he'll own every global media company of consequence.

He may he right on one or more of those counts.

Murdoch is in the news today because 21st Century Fox, where he's chairman-CEO, is reportedly ready to make another go at buying Time Warner. Which means Murdoch, once again, is unwilling to take no for an answer.

Money, of course, is no object. Having last month offered Time Warner an apparently inadequate $85 per share, a 25% premium over the then-current market value (as of this writing, TWX shares are at $83.73 and rising), it now seems that he'll go higher; in fact, probably whatever it takes.

You might be inclined to think that sky is the limit -- except that with Rupert, really, even the sky itself is no obstacle.

I've been obsessing anew about Rupert Murdoch since the weekend, when The New York Times named his purchase of an apartment in Manhattan's new sky-piercing One Madison luxury tower its "Big Ticket" residential transaction of the week in the Sunday Real Estate section. Last week he formally closed on unit No. 57A there, for $14.93 million, which sounds like a lot, but actually literally isn't even the half of it -- because, as the Times notes, he'd previously purchased, in March, "One Madison's undisputed trophy apartment, the 6,850-square-foot triplex penthouse with a vertiginous 568-square-foot wraparound terrace, for $43.01 million."

In other words, he's spent nearly $58 million in a matter of months to acquire not only the three-story penthouse atop One Madison but an apartment below it. Though the newly purchased pad is reportedly in move-in condition (with an interior created by celebrity designer Yabu Pushelberg), Murdoch, says the Times, requested that his penthouse "be delivered in white-box condition so that his design team could customize finishes to his personal specifications." Which means millions more and at least a year or two of construction.

Some context here: Murdoch divorced his wife Wendi Deng last November. And last month, he emerged semi-triumphant in the phone-hacking case that has been casting a shadow over his empire in Britain for several years.

As my old friend Michael Wolff, the Murdoch biographer, wrote in a recent USA Today column, when former News Corp. exec (and Murdoch favorite) Rebekah Brooks was acquitted on June 24 of phone hacking, bribery, and corruption charges, Murdoch essentially "won." Yes, one big fall guy went down -- former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who was convicted of conspiring to intercept phone communications (reporters and editors at NOTW got caught hacking into the phones of celebrities, politicians and crime victims) -- but the larger message was that the highest ranks of Murdoch's organization, and Murdoch himself, are untouchable.

Untouchable and unstoppable.

Which brings us back to Murdoch and Time Warner.

Let's not forget that back in May 2007 Rupert Murdoch made a surprise bid for Wall Street Journal owner Dow Jones, because he really, really, really wanted the Journal. The Bancroft family, which controlled Dow Jones stock, initially rebuffed his overtures, but Murdoch being Murdoch, he was willing to pay roughly twice the then-current market value of the company. Long story short: $5 billion and a few months later, he prevailed.

One more bit of context: Murdoch turned 83 this past March. (In the U.S. -- Murdoch has been a naturalized U.S. citizen since 1985 -- the average life expectancy for men is 77.4; it's 80.5 in his native Australia.)

At 83, he's a new man: recently divorced with a sweet new bachelor pad and possibly a new girlfriend (his date to the Vanity Fair Oscar party in March was Juliet de Baubigny, a Silicon Valley socialite and Kleiner Perkins partner). He's somehow dodged the biggest media scandal in British history -- one that was supposed to do him, and his empire, in.

Rupert Murdoch wants Time Warner.

Ergo, it will be his.

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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