Rupert Murdoch: It's all about the money, money, money

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Rupert Murdoch's family fortune is valued at about $15 billion, but he plans to increase that substantially before his time comes to an end, writes Rodney E. Lever.

AN AMERICAN LAWYER once made an astute observation:

“Rupert Murdoch is very good at what he does. The question is: is what he does any good?”

I tend to think rather of Rupert's smile when he knows he is in trouble. He seems like a crocodile barely suppressing a savage snarl. 

The smiling crocodile will be celebrating his 85th birthday on March 11 and must be giving some thought to the inevitable march of time.

Those who like to measure monetary wealth have put Rupert Murdoch's family fortune at about $15 billion. That sum is about three-quarters of what it takes today to appear in Forbes magazine as among the world's super rich. 

Rupert is clearly planning to increase his wealth and soon.

The early polls for this year's British election has the Labour Party in a strong position. If the Tories lose in 2015, Murdoch will surely have to reconsider the future of his operations in Britain. 

Times Newspapers Ltd has been losing money from the day he acquired them. There is no sign of them ever being profitable, despite some dubious accounting techniques to pretend they are making money. The Sun remains profitable, but is losing ground, no longer with the total freedom to wreck the lives of famous people who sometimes fall into human error.

Rupert has never been popular with British Labour since his wooing of Margaret Thatcher, his crushing of the printing unions, and the time when he coddled Tony Blair and John Howard, and helped to start the Iraq war for George W Bush. 

Given the hacking scandal that continues to haunt him and exposes more suspicious activity as time passes, he might be politely asked by a new British Labour government to shut the door on the way out.

Rich people like to "Think Big". That's what carried families like the Rothschilds, the Oppenheimers and the Rockefeller's through most of the 20th century.

The latest Forbes magazine list of the richest families are not British or Americans. The top ten last year carried names like Fontbana, in Chile; Bailleres, in Mexico; Albrecht, in Germany; and Kwok, in Hong Kong.

With their wealth measured at more than USD $20 billion each, none has made their money from flogging newspapers. Common to them are either family inheritance or enterprising ideas and hard work.

News Corporation (which is Rupert by another name) has bought an internet investment in India, BigDecisions.com, without so far revealing the cost.  

He has also bought a 25% share in another Indian internet company named PropTiger, for $30 million. PropTiger provides online real estate advertising, contiguous with his online U.S. real estate Move and his online Australian REA Group.

He flies stacks of daily issues of The Australian and the Wall Street Journal to India every day and spreads them around. It pushes up their circulation figures even when they are given away free.

News Corp investors have been told that BigDecisions.com

'... will help Indian consumers make smarter financial decisions through interactive, decision-making tools powered by sophisticated algorithms and data.' 

Advanced technology will provide

"... reliable and independent data to help investors in India make important decisions using accurate information tailored to their independent needs."

BigDecisions.com was launched in 2013 by two Indian investors, Manish Shah and Gaurav Roy. With News Corp money in the bank they will go on to start new ventures that they might be able to sell Rupert too.

Rupert's interest in India may have been stimulated by the 2008 financial crisis, blamed on the George W. Bush administration in the US for creating a fresher climate for illegal activity that greatly harmed innocent investors.

Bush and the Republican Congress lifted restrictions on share trading after the debacle of the Iraq war. Some of the erased regulations dated back to the World War I depression of 1929, and set conditions that led to World War 2, leaving Britain broke and the U.S. as the richest country on the planet.

When Barack Obama became president in 2009, he appointed a new head of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Mary Jo White, now 68 years old, but a notoriously tough lady, who has reconstructed a new set of protective measures for investors.

She proved to be a guardian angel of the U.S. economy, re-instituting and strengthening rules and regulations that set boundaries for the major banks, stockbrokers and share traders.

Rupert Murdoch is attracted to India, now one of the world's larger economies. Its economic growth increased from 4.7% in 2013 to 5.5% in 2014 and expects a further increase in 2015. America is still the world's leader, with its GDP three times larger than India.

The U.S. suffered considerable damage in the crash of 2008, much of it due to gung-ho management of Wall Street after the Securities and Exchange Commission's deregulated.

The development of faster electronic share trading represents about 85% of all stockmarket trading.

Systems have grown to a point where vast amounts of money can be shifted around the world at an incredible speed: one million dollars can be transferred anywhere one single second.

Electronic machines are only as fallible as the human beings who touch the keyboard. Some investors wonder if financial transfers at the speed of light could cause unimaginable consequences. Time will tell.

One way or another the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer. That's still the way of the world. Rupert Murdoch surely plans to continue this trend.

You can follow Rodney E. Lever on Twitter @rodneyelever.

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