The Age Thing: How Old Is Too Old To Run A Media Empire?

Age has crept into our political discourse (as in, the issue of whether an 82 year-old man can serve as president) and even into coverage about publishing.  

Take the weekend edition of Financial Times. Lunch with the FT, a weekly interview with leading cultural and business figures, features a rare interview with Anna Wintour, who at 73 is global editorial director of Vogue and chief content officer of Condé Nast (and who decided not to order anything during the lunch). And the FT Opinion page includes a profile of Lachlan Murdoch, who in November will take control of News Corp. from his 92 year-old father Rupert.  

Wintour has a long way to go before she reaches Rupert Murdoch’s present age. Unlike him, though, she doesn’t own her company – someday, we could wake up to find she is now an editor emeritus.  



For now, Wintour says, “I love what I do. I feel consistently challenged by it.” Yet she also distinguishes between her work life and home life. 

“For me, when I’m home with my kids and the grandchildren and my friends at home, we don’t talk about work,” she says. “We play tennis, and stupid games. That’s my solace.” 

Could Wintour retire or be replaced?

“It is probable that Condé Nast cannot afford to lose her,” interviewer Lauren Indvik writes. “Advertisers run ads in Vogue not only because that will sell clothes, but also to secure Wintour’s favour and advice. She is frequently consulted by investors looking for young labels to back and executives in search of a new creative director.”

Then there are the ancillary products that help make up for a soft ad market — like the Vogue 100 club, “whose members pay $100,000 a year for access to Wintour and Vogue events,” Indvik continues.

Lachlan Murdoch, of course, is not yet at the stage where retirement might be an option. FT calls him “The leading man in a lengthy family drama.” But it remains to be seen how well he will perform. 

And some question whether he really is in charge. One media investor says Rupert “doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who will step back from pulling the strings. He’s still sharp as a tack.” 

Unlike his dad who has lived for work, Lachlan has interests outside of media — “like rock climbing, rugby league and having a beer with his mates,” says one source, according to FT. And he has siblings who could take over if he should falter. 

Wintour and Lachlan Murdoch share at least one thing in common – both came from established publishing families (Wintour’s father was the editor of The Evening Standard).  

The establishment media industry clearly must bring in younger people from more diverse backgrounds; if it fails to, the daring few will start competing products. For her part, Wintour has named Chioma Nnadi as head of editorial content for British Vogue 

Finally, speaking of age, there’s Michael Bloomberg, who still robustly runs things in his 80s. He recently announced that he will leave his empire to his foundation, although he expects to remain in the saddle for years to come. 

As they say, the 80s are the new 60s. 


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