Biz media is never more nutty and self-involved than when it gets to write about itself. Some of the overly fawning Murdoch coverage this week has put me in mind of the classic New Republic piece of a decade ago parodying just that sort of thing via a made-up writer named “Ken Fellata”:
MY car phone rang. It was August 10, and I was on my way to Kennedy Airport to fly to Paris to go bungee jumping off the Eiffel Tower with Walt Disney Chairman Michael Eisner. He had told me earlier by phone that he had taken up bungee jumping after Disney’s stunning takeover of Cap Cities/ABC in order to put to rest any lingering doubts about his masculinity. A proud but intensely private man, who recently battled back from quintuple-bypass heart surgery, he promised to tell me in Paris the real story of his celebrated feud with Barry Diller. Word on the street was that the two titans had nearly come to blows at the Allen & Co. mogul retreat in Aspen in July when their visions of the information age collided over Evian water next to the resort’s vast, Olympic-sized CEO sumo wrestling ring. In the phone call I got when I was halfway to Kennedy, Eisner canceled the jumping trip. A deal was in the works. ‘Jiffy Lube,’ he told me. ‘That’s all I can say right now.’
I switched back to Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone, who had been holding on the other line. The billionaire Redstone, a proud but intensely humble man who parlayed a small collection of newspaper kiosks into the country’s biggest privately owned multiplex theater chain, didn’t like to be kept waiting. ‘Was that Eisner you were talking to?’ he asked me. The two shared a long-standing animosity ever since Redstone’s deputy, Frank Biondi, jostled former Eisner protege Jeffrey Katzenberg at a Texas-style barbecue at David Geffen’s estate in the Hamptons in honor of Edgar Bronfman Jr.’s stunning multi-billion dollar acquisition of MCA. ‘There was no way around it,’ an admirer of both men told me. ‘Jeffrey and Frank may be humble, but they are intensely proud men.’ I recounted to Redstone the substance of my converstation with Eisner. Redstone felt sick. He had been working in secret for months on a multi-billion dollar deal to merge his entertainment colossus with Midas Muffler. But Redstone knew that Jiffy Lube was twice the prize Midas ever was, featuring a $19.95 tune-up and oil change that had transformed the industry. Eisner was moving to steal his thunder once again.
I pulled over to the side of the Grand Central Parkway, stunned by what I had learned. The Eisner bombshell, I realized, meant that the media industry’s merger mania had reached a new level–an all-out fight over the crown jewels of the auto parts and service industry. Swayed by pride and a stew of other emotions, the new masters of the media universe have decided that powerful hidden synergy lies in the intersection of the so-called information superhighway and the highway highway. But …