The topic of the opening night panel at this week’s New York Forum on Tuesday was ostensibly corporate reinvention, and for a few moments the hour-plus discussion stuck to script.
Hearst Magazines president Cathie Black explained how her company learned to be more flexible by observing its smaller, less ad-dependent foreign operations. Alcatel-Lucent chairman Philippe Camus spoke of his firm’s commitment to technology and next generation transistors. Mostly though, the capacity crowd got what it had filled a Midtown ballroom to witness: the pairing of Rupert Murdoch and a live mic.
To be fair, the News Corp. chairman and chief executive officer did offer a few media-related predictions. He reiterated his long held stance that “there’s no such thing as a free story,” opined that the news industry had to find a way to get young people reading and praised tablet computers adding, “I believe that in five years we will have many hundreds of millions of iPads or iPad-like devices in the world.” But he also showed off his inner political commentator, a side of the mogul that panel host Maria Bartiromo happily indulged. When she asked what he would do if he were President Obama, Murdoch displayed his comic chops, pausing a beat to let the room get its laughs before declaring, “I would establish my authority a lot more clearly.”
At other points Murdoch offered his takes on issues such as, but in no way limited to, climate change, Congress and immigration reform (skeptical, a resounding con and incredibly pragmatic, for those keeping score at home).
After the panel closed, Black, who worked as New York magazine’s publisher in its Murdoch ownership days, smiled as she assessed her old boss’ performance. “He’s talking a lot more than he used to,” she said.