When two Big Media moguls meet, a chain restaurant is not the usual venue. But I’m told that last Friday Rupert Murdoch had lunch with Ted Turner at the Atlantan’s bison-serving eco-friendly Ted’s Montana Grill in NYC’s Time-Life Building (one of 51 locations). Sources said to me that the lunch was requested by Turner (est worth $2.3 bil) in an effort to “bury the hatchet” with Murdoch (est worth $8.8 bil). It came just days after a GQ interview was published with the CNN founder blaming the Fox News Channel founder for helping get America into the Iraq mess and labeling it “Rupert’s war” — and FNC in response using air time to belittle and demean Turner as “off his rocker.” Now, Murdoch can use the Wall Street Journal and new Fox Business Channel to belittle and demean Turner as well. “Ted reached out in the hope to make nice to Rupert now that he’s the biggest media mogul in the world,” a Murdoch insider told me. Did it work? “Rupert doesn’t change anything. He still goes after anyone he wants.” As someone who once briefly worked for Murdoch’s New York Post Business section, I can attest that orders would come down from on high to dig up dirt on Turner for less-than-flattering articles about him. Of course, Turner made it easy since he was always opening his yap and saying something controversial if not downright stupid.
For those a step behind, Murdoch and Turner have been feuding competitors for two decades. There’s a long history of animosity between the two starting when Rupe in 1987 was angling to take over Ted’s company Turner Broadcasting which was in a vulnerable position after loading up on junk bonds to make a run at MGM. But the feud really fired up once Time Warner acquired Turner’s news, television and sports empire. Murdoch went into the Ted/Time Warner bashing business after Fox News Channel was launched to compete against Turner’s CNN. Time Warner Cable had an arrangement to carry FNC, but one of the first things Turner did was to screw with that deal. The FTC had ordered Time Warner Cable to carry a second news channel — but instead of FNC, Time Warner Cable went with MSNBC. A war of words began, with Turner likening Rupe to Adolf Hitler and the New York Post running headlines questioning Ted’s sanity. Murdoch cut a deal with EchoStar with the goal of creating a U.S. satellite powerhouse that could threaten cable, then backed out of the plan after Time Warner and other cable operators agreed to carry his new channel. I’d say despite the politesse of lunch, this feud is far from over. Besides, the New York Post ran a lousy review of Ted’s Montana’s Grill this month.