Media mogul and two-time Simpsons voice actor Rupert Murdoch has stepped down as chairman of both Fox Corporation, which owns the Fox broadcast network, and News Corporation.
The 92-year old billionaire launched a media empire in Australia, which expanded to the UK and the US. His company, News Corporation, acquired 20th Century Fox in 1985, and launched the Fox network the following year. He played a small role in getting The Simpsons on the air, or at least that’s what he told Vanity Fair in 2007:
I was at a program meeting with [Fox CEO] Barry Diller and the people at Fox Network, and afterwards Barry said, “Come into my room, I want to show you something.” And he had a tape there, of about 20 minutes in length, of all the little 30-second bits that had been through The Tracey Ullman Show. And he played it, and I just thought it was hilarious. I said, “You’ve gotta buy this tonight.” He said, “No. It’s more complicated than that.” So we went forward from there.
Sidenote: Bob Iger, who was then the head of ABC, expressed interest in buying the show, which may have tipped the scales in convincing Diller to greenlight a 13-episode season for the Fox network. Iger would later become CEO of Disney and acquire Fox’s film and television studios, which included The Simpsons.
It was Murdoch’s idea to move The Simpsons from Sunday nights to Thursday for its second season, putting it up against ratings juggernaut The Cosby Show, which was a big deal at the time. Executive producers James L. Brooks and Sam Simon thought it was a stupid move that could potentially kill the show, but it held its own and managed to beat Cosby at Thanksgiving, proving the upstart Fox network could compete with the Big 3.
Murdoch and his properties were a frequent target on The Simpsons. One episode depicted him as a fellow prison inmate of Sideshow Bob, and he would later voice himself in the episodes “Sunday, Cruddy Sunday” (in which he refers to himself as a billionaire tyrant) and “Judge Me Tender.” He remained a fan of the show over the years (or at least claimed to be), even tweeting in 2014 to praise a YouTube short the show had put out. Sadly, I could only find one photo of him posing with the yellow family that made him millions.