Donald Trump’s secret weapon: It Was Wendi Wot Won It!


How Wendi Deng Murdoch influenced the course of the US election. An unhappy intersection with Panama Papers


In the fading fruit bowl of global media memes, Wendi Deng Murdoch is the perfect peach—the story so eternally delicious that if she didn’t exist we would have to make her up.

Sometimes we do.

She never disappoints. From the many conflicting accounts of how she and Rupert Murdoch discovered true love two decades ago, to the colourful details of her first marriage written by Wall Street Journal staff (who turned out to have strangely limited career prospects); on to the Murdoch family brawl over her children’s inheritance; slugging the pie-thrower who attacked Rupert at the UK parliamentary committee in 2011; all before her special friendship with former UK PM Tony Blair: Wendi has always been the best story in town.

And who can forget Clive Palmer’s fanciful (and entirely unsubstantiated) Twitter claims that she was a secret Chinese agent tasked to infiltrate Rupert?

But Wendi and the Panama Papers? The latest theory can be filed under the modest label, How Wendi Helped Bring Down Western Civilization (subtitled Or At Least The Hillary Clinton Bits Of It). Continue reading

News Corp by its fingertips: Rupert Murdoch’s Australian newspapers eye the abyss

Two questions emerge in the aftermath of Paddy Manning’s remarkable revelations in Crikey (here) of the disastrous fall in earnings at News Corp Australia in 2013: why did News Corp take so long to disclose what had happened; and what happened next?

The news from 2014 is not good. News Corp Australia’s publishing operations appear to have dropped another 73 per cent in operating income in 2014, from $88 million to $A24 million. That’s after a 69 per cent drop in 2013. News Ltd was almost certainly losing money in the first half of F2014 before it inched its way back into the black in the second half. Now CEO Robert Thomson talks of “green shoots in the Nullabor”, by which he means it’s currently not actually loss-making. But you can write off this massive economic unit as a serious money earner. Continue reading

Lachlan Murdoch’s $13.3m payout

21st Century Fox and News Corp shareholders will have to pay $A13.3 million as their share of a $A40 million settlement to stop their new co-chairman, Lachlan Murdoch, from being sued for breach of director’s duties at the failed One.Tel. It’s almost exactly a year since News Corp agreed to pay $US139 million to settle an unrelated damages claim that directors harmed shareholders by letting Rupert Murdoch as chairman use the company as “his personal fiefdom”.

Some background to the latest payout: In 2005, the then compliance director of the Australian Securities & Investments Commission, Jan Redfern, was questioned over documents which showed her staff believed that neither James Packer nor Lachlan Murdoch had a good understanding for what directors were required to do, with a suggestion she herself was “keen” to bring actions against Lachlan and James for breach of directors’ duties. She denied this. Instead ASIC pursued One.Tel executives including CEO Jodee Rich with assistance from PBL and News Corp. The action settled this week was brought by the One.Tel liquidator.

Transcript of questioning by David Williams SC (for Jodee Rich) of Jan Redfern of ASIC in the NSW Supreme Court on November 24 2004. Continue reading

Commander Ray Adams’ mystery year

In the two days that it took to erase all known records of Operation Othona—to shred the surveillance logs, witness statements, listening device records, photographs and informant contact sheets, to sledge hammer the videos, computer drives and tape records, in short to bludgeon the history of one of the London Metropolitan’s Police’s largest corruption investigation into oblivion in 2001, the mood among those who had been targets of the inquiry must have been exultant. Continue reading

Apple Sales International’s plummeting Irish tax rate

When I wrote my  Financial Review piece on how $A8.9 billion of Apple’s Australian sales revenue from 2002-2013 ended up as profit with Apple Sales International, I hadn’t noticed that Apple pays more tax in Australia than it pays in Ireland.

In Ireland, from 2002 to 2011, Apple Sales International reported $US 45.6 billion profit, on which it paid $US63.2 million tax. Over the decade the tax rate didn’t just drop. It broke the sound barrier on the way down. These are ASI’s year by year earnings over the decade: Continue reading

Confessions of a conspiracy theorist

(Please don’t try this at home)

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Journalists are often accused of being obsessive, irresponsible, badly supervised, out of control, obsessive again, prone to ka-razy conspiracy theories, ornery, really bad dressers, mouth breathers, showing poor table manners and did I mention something about wretched conspiracists?

Into every life a little criticism must fall. For example in my case here, here and here from News Corp. Also behind the News Corp paywall, here and here. And that’s just in the last week, triggered by this modest effort by me on page 8 of the AFR. Continue reading