As part of its 25th anniversary, CNBC is creating a definitive list of people who have had the greatest influence in business over the past quarter century. Determining who belongs on this list—and who should rank higher—has led to some spirited debates. Today, we pit John Malone against Rupert Murdoch. After reading, cast your vote.
John Malone's impact on the cable industry and the current alignment of programming and distribution is hard to overstate, but his mastery of delivering levered equity returns to shareholders over the long term may be his greatest legacy. Malone helped create the modern-day cable industry by building its largest player, TCI, into a national player before selling it to AT&T. He also created Liberty Media from the equity staked he received in various programmers by giving them carriage on TCI. While Malone has made his share of mistakes in a long and very active career, his ability to deliver long-term returns that rival the best of investors is what endears him to Wall Street. Since Liberty's inception, the company has returned a compounded annual growth rate of 17.8 percent.—David Faber.
Rupert Murdoch built his family newspaper business into an international media empire, ranging from U.K. BSkyB, to Star India, to a new US cable sports channel. His launch of "the fourth network" in the 1980s and Fox News in 1996 made him a force in TV, while his 2007 purchase of Dow Jones upped his publishing power. And despite a phone hacking scandal at his U.K. News of the World, shares of News Corp and 21st Century Fox have grown since last summer's split, giving the Murdoch family $13.4 billion in net worth in September, and landing him at number 33 on Forbes' "Most Powerful" list.—Julia Boorstin.