The night Karl Stefanovic met Rupert Murdoch…and asked him a cheeky question

Rupert Murdoch

Peace breaks out between warring media giants as breakfast TV man hosts News Corp boss

Guests at an exclusive Advertising Week dinner held in Sydney last night were treated to Karl Stefanovic revealing details about his one meeting with News Corp founder Rupert Murdoch.

Gathered inside a Sydney CBD restaurant, Today show co-host and 60 Minutes reporter Stefanovic had volunteered to interview News Corp’s executive chairman Australasia, Michael Miller.

There is no love lost between Stefanovic’s employer Nine Entertainment and the Murdoch-controlled publishing and broadcasting giant. The companies compete fiercely for audience and advertising, taking any opportunity to share bad news about their opposition.

At the start of the evening, Stefanovic teased the Advertising Week guests explaining: “I did meet Rupert once, which I won’t go into tonight. But he did tolerate me…for about 10 minutes.”

The TV host admitted he much admired what Murdoch had achieved since the day he took over The Advertiser in Adelaide. Miller agreed and pointed out what a journey Murdoch had been on defying the establishment and some critics to go from a small beginning to building a fourth TV network in the US in Fox to the 2017 sale of part of the business to Disney.

“When people tell Rupert he couldn’t do something that is his biggest motivation,” said Miller.

Speaking about his relationship with Murdoch, Miller admitted. “Every meeting with Rupert is tough, but it’s always fair. I always walk out having had a lesson in doing the basics very well. He doesn’t have the answer to everything, and he asks more questions and he judges you by your answers.”

Rupert Murdoch

Karl Stefanovic grills Michael Miller. Photos: Shutterstock for AWAPAC

Karl on Rupert Murdoch’s marriage

Obviously reconsidering his decision not to talk about his one meeting, Stefanovic surveyed the dining room and said: “About my one meeting with Rupert Murdoch, and I hope this doesn’t go any further, and why would it with a room full of media [laughs], I was at Lachlan’s 40th.

“We were having a great night and Rupert was there and so was Lachlan’s mum [Anna]. A beautiful lady. I decided I would go up to Rupert and say: ‘Mr Murdoch. Your ex-wife is so hot, why did you stuff that up so badly?’

“I managed to get 10 minutes with him before he ordered security to come and take me away. I did get a little bit of time with him.”

In that short time with Rupert Murdoch, he left an impression on Stefanovic. “Just the breadth of knowledge he had and how he keeps evolving [the business].”

Karl quizzes News Corp on his Noosa ‘wild scuffle’

Karl Stefanovic has been asked a few times in the past about the incident in the park in January this year with Michael Clarke. He has been reluctant to speak too much about it since he became front-page news. Although last night he took the opportunity of grilling News Corp’s Australian boss about the coverage and that famous page one lead with the headline “SEX AND OUT”.

“Back at the start of the year, how long did it take you to come up with the headlines for what happened in Noosa,” Karl Stefanovic asked Michael Miller.

At that point, Miller held up a copy of the front page of The Daily Telegraph when they broke news about the incident. “That’s a pretty good headline,” agreed Stefanovic.

The Today show co-host then drilled the newspaperman about their obsession with the story. “You returned to it every day for four weeks. You keep going to the well. I don’t want to go into the financials, but I gather it did pretty good business for you. I am happy to have been able to help out News Corp as I’m a great supporter.”

When asked how a story grows from a tip-off to reaching across all arms of the business, Miller recalled: “That was 19th of January I think. A slow news day. We have people who monitor social media and we also have journalists in Noosa on a publication.

In this particular case, sorry Karl, there is a history where Michael Clarke has sold [more newspapers] than you have. Things like the Lara [Bingle] story, Kyly [Clarke] and the divorce stories. The data on the first time we ran it was very strong.”

“I’m very happy for Clarke to be better than me at that sort of stuff,” laughed Stefanovic.

Karl has helped News Corp sell newspapers, maybe not as much as Michael Clarke though.

Miller then explained how after a major story first appears in one news brand, the story can then be picked up elsewhere across the News network.

Stefanovic asked Miller how much competition there was between the mastheads. “Too often. I won’t go into details. It is interesting to have a portfolio of different mastheads and brands that compete and also don’t always agree with each other.”

Miller shared some detail: “Look at the diversity between The Australian and or the rivalry between The Telegraph and The Courier-Mail. We have nearly 100 different brands in the portfolio.”

The conversation between the two media men was punctuated by a meal break. While Miller stayed on chatting to guests later into the evening, Karl Stefanovic slipped when his interview was over.

Guests had witnessed a rare coming together of the competing media giants. There hadn’t been such a public display of affection since Miller hosted former Nine Entertainment chief Hugh Marks at the Holt Street launch of the ill-fated Your Money TV channel JV in 2018.

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