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Elisabeth Murdoch (businesswoman)

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Elisabeth Murdoch


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Elisabeth Murdoch (; born 22 August 1968) is an Australian-born American media executive based in the United Kingdom. Murdoch is the second daughter of Australian-born American multi-billionaire media proprietor Rupert Murdoch. She was a non-executive chairperson of Shine Group, the UK-based TV program production company she founded in 2001, until the company's parent, her father's 21st Century Fox on 1 January 2015 merged its Shine division with ApolloGlobal Management's Endemol and Core Media production houses, specializing in reality TV.


Elisabeth Murdoch (businesswoman) Elisabeth Murdoch on Shine family succession and ambition

Early life

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Elisabeth Murdoch was born on 22 August 1968 in Sydney. Her father is Rupert Murdoch and her mother, Anna Murdoch Mann (born 1944). She was named after her grandmother, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch. She completed her secondary education at the Brearley School in New York City and graduated with a bachelor's degree from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York.


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Murdoch began her career as a manager of program acquisitions at her father's FX Networks, a cable television unit based in Los Angeles. Operating as EP Communications, on 22 September 1994 Murdoch and her then-husband, Elkin Kwesi Pianim, purchased a pair of NBC-affiliate television stations, KSBW and KSBY, in California on a US$35 million loan secured by her father. Within 18 months, the couple reorganized and sold the stations at a $12 million profit.

Elisabeth Murdoch (businesswoman) Elisabeth Murdoch businesswoman

Murdoch moved with Pianim to the United Kingdom where Rupert Murdoch was running BSkyB after forcing a 1990 merger with BSB. The early years of BSkyB saw a hemorrhage of cash from Murdoch's News Corporation funds. To help turn around the financial fortunes of the company, New Zealand television executive Sam Chisholm was brought on board to manage the day-to-day operations and build the subscriber base, with Elisabeth Murdoch as his second-in-command and de facto apprentice. By the time Chisholm left the company, BSkyB was the most profitable company in the United Kingdom. As managing director, she oversaw BSkyB's £12 million sponsorship of the troubled Millennium Dome, to the relief of its Cabinet overseer, Peter Mandelson. However, she also faced criticism after brokering her father's failed £623.4 million bid for England's champion Manchester United team.

After quarrelling publicly with Chisholm, she ventured out on her own as a television and film producer in London. She advocated Sky setting up a film and production unit that is similar to BBC Films and Film4 Productions. However, due to lack of success, this unit closed down, and she founded Shine Limited in March 2001, with 80 percent ownership retained by herself, 15 percent by Lord Alli, and five percent by BSkyB. BSkyB signed a deal guaranteeing to buy an agreed amount of Shine programming for two years. An agreement in principle has been reached to sell Shine to News Corporation. Shine Limited is also a supplier of franchise television to broadcasters internationally, including the BBC, Channel 4, HBO and the RTL Group. Her firm has worked closely with Freud Communications on a number of media deals.

Lachlan Murdoch, formerly the deputy chief operating officer at the News Corporation and the publisher of the New York Post, was deemed Murdoch's heir presumptive before resigning from his executive posts at his father's company at the end of July 2005. That surprise departure left James Murdoch, chief executive of the satellite television service British Sky Broadcasting since November 2003, as the only Murdoch scion still directly involved with the company's operations, though Lachlan agreed to remain on the News Corporation's board.

In 2011, Shine was acquired by News Corporation in a controversial deal that raised questions about nepotism.

In February 2013 she was assessed as the 5th most powerful woman in the United Kingdom by Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4.

Personal life

Murdoch's first marriage was to a fellow Vassar graduate, Elkin Kwesi Pianim, an associate in the New York corporate finance department of the Rothschild investment bank. He is the son of economist and financier Andrews Kwame Pianim (a native of Ghana) and Cornelia Pianim (a native of the Netherlands). The wedding was held on 10 September 1993 at St. Timothy Roman Catholic Church near the Beverly Hills residence of the bride's parents. They have two children:

  • Cornelia Pianim (born 1994 in New York)
  • Anna Pianim (born 1997 in London)
  • They were divorced in 1998.

    Murdoch's second marriage was to public relations executive Matthew Freud, the son of former MP Sir Clement Freud and great-grandson of Sigmund Freud. The couple married on 18 August 2001 in a ceremony at Blenheim Palace. They divorced in 2014. They have two children:

  • Charlotte Emma Freud, born 2000
  • Samson Murdoch Freud, born 2007
  • From 2008, they resided at Burford Priory in Oxfordshire, where they were key members of the Chipping Norton set. They also owned a home in Notting Hill, London.

    Murdoch is a dual national of the United States and the United Kingdom. Murdoch currently resides in the St John's Wood neighborhood of London.


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