11. Rupert Murdoch

Global media mogul

Benjamin Wachenje
"When you're a catalyst for change, you make enemies—and I'm proud of the ones I've got."

Executive chairman, News Corp.; chairman and CEO, Twenty-First Century Fox
Born: March 11, 1931, Melbourne, Australia
Education: Master's degree in philosophy, politics and economics, Worcester College, Oxford University

No media mogul has matched the power and influence that Rupert Murdoch has achieved over four continents. Nor has any put a newspaper and magazine empire so perilously at risk in order expand into broadcast news and entertainment. In pulling off a bet-the-farm gamble, Murdoch reshaped the media landscape over the past quarter of a century and fashioned the 24-hour cable news format as he had a generation earlier with the sensationalist, mass-circulation tabloid newspaper.

Murdoch controls the companies that produce many of the newspapers and books that people in the U.S., the U.K., Asia and Australia read, as well as the films and television shows they watch, the radio stations they listen to, the websites they visit, and the business news and data they buy.

His dominance has given him significant clout with both left- and right-of-center governments in those countries—as well as a fortune that Bloomberg values at $12 billion. Despite the conservative stance of Fox News in the U.S., over the years Murdoch has backed both Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair in the U.K., as well as Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in Australia.

By 1989, Murdoch had expanded his News Corp. newspaper holdings from Australia to the U.K.—where he had won a brutal confrontation with the print unions in the mid-1980s—and the U.S. He had begun assembling his Fox entertainment empire, buying a stake in Twentieth Century Fox Film in 1985, and then adding local TV stations. These became the nucleus of the fourth broadcast network in the U.S.

Murdoch then began his march into global satellite and cable television focused on news and sports. In 1990, he formed the satellite broadcasting network Sky in the U.K. He bought a controlling stake in Star TV, a Hong Kong-based broadcaster reaching more than 320 million viewers across Asia, in 1993. Fox News debuted three years later, with CNN founder Ted Turner vowing to crush it "like a bug."

News Corp. bought a number of U.S. and U.K. book and academic publishing imprints throughout the late 1980s, and consolidated them into HarperCollins in 1990. Murdoch bought the New York Post for a second time in 1993 (he had been required to divest it in order to own TV stations).

In 2007, he acquired Dow Jones, including the newswire and associated digital business information services and The Wall Street Journal. That gave Murdoch a national competitor to The New York Times—the archetypal publication of the media elite he has long disdained.

That would prove a high-water mark for Murdoch. In the U.K. in a succession of scandals in the second half of the 2000s, his Sunday tabloid News of the World was revealed to have engaged in widespread phone-hacking of politicians, celebrities and other public figures, including a murdered 13-year-old, Milly Dowler. In 2011, Murdoch and his son, James, were summoned to testify at an ethics inquiry in London, after which a Parliamentary committee declared Rupert Murdoch unfit to run a major company.

The investigation resulted in more than 40 arrests and the prosecution of several News Corp. employees, including a senior Murdoch lieutenant, former News of the World Editor Rebekah Brooks. The scandal weakened Murdoch's grip on British politicians and led to his closing of News of the World. He launched a Sunday edition of his best-selling Sun tabloid in February 2012.

In 2013, in response to shareholder complaints about the interlocking family trusts that gave Murdoch disproportionate control over News Corp., he split it into two separate entities: a new News Corp., which contains the newspaper and publishing properties, and Twenty-First Century Fox, which comprises the movie and broadcasting businesses.

He remains chairman of both groups. His sons, Lachlan and James, were recently promoted to senior positions at both, signaling that Murdoch's media empire is likely to remain in the family.

Rupert Murdoch: Lifelong highlights

  • Took over the family's publishing businesses at 22 following his father's death in 1952
  • Lost his Australian citizenship when he got U.S. citizenship in 1985
  • Blocked by U.K. antitrust authorities from buying the Manchester United football club in 1998
  • Bought MySpace for $580 million in 2005; sold it for $35 million six years later
  • Divorced third wife, Wendi Deng, in November 2013
  • Bought 13-acre winery and mansion in Bel Air, Calif., for $28.8 million in 2013
  • Paid $57.25 million for a 10,000-square-foot, four-floor condominium in Manhattan in February 2014

Read MoreFULL LIST: CNBC FIRST 25

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