Piers Morgan has already used his CNN platform to defend his former boss Rupert Murdoch. But expect his show tonight to be even more of a Murdoch lovefest.
That’s when Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the Saudi billionaire and second-largest News Corp. shareholder, is expected to appear live to talk about the embattled mogul and the future of the company.
Alwaleed, whose 7 percent stake in News Corp. is exceeded only by the Murdoch family itself, has already expressed his support for both the senior Murdoch and his son James.
After the Murdochs appeared before U.K. lawmakers Tuesday, Alwaleed said the News Corp. CEO and his deputy answered all of the questions “with full honesty and integrity.”
“I commend my friends and partners Rupert and James for addressing these serious issues head on,” he said, according to Forbes.com. “I continue to see News Corp. as a valuable and long-term investment and remain both supportive and confident in the leadership of Rupert and James Murdoch.”
When asked about the phone-hacking scandal last week by the BBC, the billionaire (who was aboard his yacht in Cannes at the time) said Rebekah Brooks, the former News International chief executive, “has to go.” (Brooks resigned the next day.)
“It’s very important for me and my company, who are investors in News Corp. since 20 years, to get this in order because ethics to me are very important,” he said.
But Alwaleed, who is a nephew of Saudi’s King Abdullah, has also been clear that something else is very important to him. Not only does his company, Kingdom Holding, own a stake in Murdoch’s media company, News Corp. also owns 14 percent of Alwaleed’s privately owned media company Rotana.
So while other News Corp. shareholders may be plotting rebellion, Alwaleed has extra incentive to support the current regime.
In January 2010, in a conversation with Charlie Rose, he said that he has a “very close relationship” with James Murdoch.
“I have full trust in him. He is really a Rupert Murdoch in the making, and he's almost there. And I told that to Mr. Murdoch,” he said.
With a fortune valued at $19.6 billion by Forbes, the Saudi prince is 26th on the magazine’s list of the world’s billionaires. Not only does his company have ownership in News Corp., it also has major stakes in mega brands like Citicorp, Four Seasons, Apple, and Procter & Gamble. (Little wonder he’s been dubbed the “Arabian Warren Buffett” by Time magazine.)
The 56-year-old holds 14 honorary doctorates from universities around the world, in addition to a BA/BS from Menlo College in California and an MS from Syracuse University in New York.
According to various reports, Alwaleed owns several private planes, a helicopter-equipped yacht, a fleet of potentially hundreds of luxury cars, and a Riyadh palace with upwards of 400 rooms.