Rupert Murdoch, the 91-year-old executive chairman of News Corp, is now allowed to work from home.
Observers of Murdoch’s lifestyle and role at the company he founded might have thought working from one of his homes, or indeed from a private jet, yacht, or anywhere else, was already a company norm. But an SEC filing from July suggests that Murdoch found it necessary, for legal reasons, optics within the company, or some other rationale, to codify his decision to relocate daily work activities to his ranch in Montana.
Even the existence of the filing suggests that the move is of material significance to the company, and it gives plenty of detail about exactly how Murdoch will work, what equipment he’ll use, and how he’ll cope when he does decide a day at News Corp HQ is necessary.
“You will be required to maintain a home office as a condition of employment with the Company. The Company will no longer maintain designated office space or other regular work accommodations for you in any of News Corp’s offices,” the filing states. It adds that when Murdoch does visit New York, “a visiting employee workspace” or a shared conference room will be provided.
But Murdoch won’t be lonely: “The Company also may hold Board meetings from time to time in Montana,” the filing states. (In between, of course, he can hang out with the 4,000 elk and other livestock on the ranch, bought from Koch Industries in 2021 for a reported $200 million.)
There is something almost nostalgic about the filing’s assurance that Murdoch will be provided with a phone, a computer, home office furniture, and “business cards with your home address and phone number” printed on them. At what events is Murdoch going to hand out these physical cards; who is going to phone him on his ranch landline as a result?
A designated office space
The agreement stipulates that Murdoch’s “home office must be a defined work area providing a reasonable separation from the rest of your home and shall only be used for business purposes.” The separation probably has to do with tax and legal concerns, but it’s fun to imagine it’s a veiled admonishment to other News Corp staffers that they’d better not think about lounging by the pool to send emails.
Murdoch won’t be financially deprived by having to convert part of his home into an office space, meanwhile: The company undertakes to pay rent to the K. Rupert Murdoch 2004 Revocable Trust, owner of the Montana home, for the privilege.
Has Murdoch heard of hybrid?
The mass move to home working sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic may have taken everyone by surprise, but plenty of companies and employees were quick to adapt: People set up desks in bedrooms, got used to Zoom calls, and in many cases began to rearrange their lives—moving to cabins and beach houses, searching for an apartment with a garden—around a telecommuting future.
Other companies were more insistent that home working was a blip, and their workers would soon be back in the physical officer—whether they liked it or not. The admonishments to return often didn’t work, with employees simply no longer convinced that coming to the office was necessary.
The result is that a middle ground has become overwhelmingly popular: Flexible or hybrid working, where employees spend some time at home and some time at a central office. In June 2022 McKinsey found that, when offered, almost every American would choose to work flexibly. A UK survey in May 2022 found that 84% of people who had to work flexibly during Covid planned to continue doing so.
And so the other striking thing about Murdoch’s move to Montana is its finality. Yes, the ranch is a long way from New York—but not that far for a man who built a vast business empire spanning multiple continents. Many might speculate whether the move smacks of retirement; but its insistence on the existence of that furnished, rented office, and those printed-up business cards suggests Murdoch wants it to be seen as anything but.