Can Murdoch still control his $42B media empire?

The overriding question at Tuesday's hearing in London on the phone hacking scandal at News Corp. went unanswered: Can Rupert Murdoch maintain control of his worldwide empire that is now valued at $42 billion?

CBS News correspondent Anthony Mason reports that Rupert Murdoch has used his vast media empire to gain access to the world's most powerful leaders and to influence the election of presidents and prime ministers.

In response to an inquiry about his frequent meetings with prime ministers, Murdoch joked: "I wish they'd leave me alone."

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While the idea may be funny to Murdoch, those world leaders may want to leave him alone now.

"I think Rupert Murdoch has been hugely damaged by this," says Charlie Beckett with the London School of Economics.

Beckett says Murdoch's image as an all-conquering media tycoon has been undercut by questions, like: "Why didn't he know? Why didn't he do something about it? Who's in charge of News Corporation?"

Murdoch built News Corporation from a single family owned newspaper in South Australia. In the 1960s, he moved into Britain, buying up "The News of the World" and later "The Times of London." In the 70s, he took aim at America, where he'd add "The New York Post" and, more recently, "The Wall Street Journal." His satellite TV empire includes the Fox network in the U.S., Sky in europe and Star TV in Asia.

"I love the free market. It's certainly been very good to me," Murdoch once said.

The same market is now punishing him. While stock in News Corporation rebounded today, it has fallen 12 percent since the scandal began.

"My company has 52,000 employees. I have led it for 57 years and I have made my share of mistakes," Murdoch admitted at Tuesday's hearing.

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Those mistakes might sink another CEO, but Murdoch still controls 38 percent of the voting stock of News Corporation. But he does not own a controlling interest in his reputation, says Vanity Fair's Sarah Ellison.

"To the extent that he can survive as the same kind of powerful entity I think is really in question. The spell is broken. The people who believed in him as a genius business executive, now really don't anymore," Ellison says.

Only recently, Forbes magazine ranked Murdoch the 13th most influential person in the world. That ranking is likely to fall now with the company's stock price. News Corporation's board may be forced to ask whether the company's chief asset has become a liability.

  • Anthony Mason

    CBS News senior business and economics correspondent; Co-host, "CBS This Morning: Saturday"

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