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Rupert's World

With DirecTV, Murdoch finally has a global satellite empire. Get ready for a fierce new media war

Five stories above the frenzied Twentieth Century Fox studio lot near Los Angeles, Rupert Murdoch eases back in a leather sofa to reflect for a moment. A bank of TV sets flickers nearby. "I am a blessed man these days," says the 72-year-old News Corp. (NWS ) chairman, looking as fit as ever in a French-blue shirt sans tie. After all, Murdoch has beaten prostate cancer -- in remission now for three years. His two sons, Lachlan, 32, and James, 31, hold top positions in the company, and daughter Elisabeth, 35, may soon rejoin. So someone named Murdoch is clearly in the wings to succeed him one day. Right on time for a late breakfast of fruit salad, Murdoch's third wife, model-thin Wendi, 35, arrives with their 2-year-old daughter, Grace, a cherub in a mandarin-collar dress. (A second girl, Chloe, was born to the couple in July.) And Murdoch is just days away from departing for a two-week vacation in his native Australia, where he'll visit his 95-year-old mother, Dame Elisabeth. On this sun-scorched California morning, Murdoch is on top of the world.

Yet Murdoch is feeling blessed by so much more. He just received a phone call from his top Washington lobbyist, Michael Regan, with news that federal regulators were set to announce their approval later that day, Dec. 19, of News Corp.'s $6.8 billion acquisition of a controlling interest in DirecTV. The agency's move would give Murdoch the missing link in News Corp.'s worldwide satellite distribution system, creating the truly global media empire he has dreamed about for years. All this, and his company is more financially sound than ever. Still, Murdoch characteristically downplays his jubilation. "Don't worry. We don't want to take over the world," he says with a wide smile across his creased face. "We just want a piece of it."