Rupert Murdoch, a noted ally of US president Donald Trump, wasn’t always so confident in the idea of a Trump presidency.
In 2014, as Joshua Green describes in his book Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency, when Trump first told Murdoch about his idea for a presidential run, the media tycoon was less than enthused:
…as he was preparing to launch his campaign, his daughter Ivanka had arranged a lunch with Murdoch to share the news. Soon after the three of them were seated and the waiter brought their soup, Ivanka spoke up: “My father has something to tell you.”
“What’s that?” Murdoch said.
“He’s going to run for president.”
“He’s not running for president,” Murdoch replied without looking up from his soup.
“No, he is!” she insisted.
Murdoch changed the subject.
Trump was said to be upset by the tone of lunch, though in the years that followed, Fox News (and by extension Murdoch), eventually became an undeniable champion of the Trump agenda—Fox News gave him significantly more airtime than any other Republican candidate. In March 2016, Murdoch tweeted that the Republican party “would be mad not to unify” behind Trump.
Murdoch’s deep embrace of Trump may have been inevitable. Fox was a platform for Trump and Trump gave Fox huge ratings. Yet the two have grown undoubtedly closer, forming something of a bromance since Trump took office.
From friendship to financial gain
It’s a good thing Murdoch has a friend in the White House now that Disney is buying 21st Century Fox in an acquisition that will change Hollywood forever.
Murdoch, whose family owns about 17% of 21st Century Fox and a controlling 39% stake in voting shares, agreed to sell to Disney in a $52.4-billion deal that will bring big properties like X-Men, Avatar, and The Simpsons to Disney’s already huge inventory, while undoubtedly making the 86-year-old tycoon much, much richer.
The Justice Department recently filed an antitrust suit to block another big media merger: AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner (which Murdoch himself was reportedly interested in acquiring). But in this case, Murdoch and Fox have a powerful ally at the head of the executive branch.
Though the Disney-Fox deal is expected to receive intense scrutiny from antitrust regulators, Murdoch may not be too concerned—he reportedly speaks to Trump on the phone at least once a week, if not every day (paywall), offering encouragement when the president is low and advising him on the issues he should be focusing on.
And now he might expect thanks for his support o in the form of regulatory approval of the Disney-Fox deal.