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The Curse of the Mogul: What's Wrong with the World's Leading Media Companies

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If Rupert Murdoch and Sumner Redstone are so smart, why are their stocks long-term losers?
We live in the age of big Media, with the celebrity moguls telling us that "content is king." But for all the excitement, glamour, drama, and publicity they produce, why can't these moguls and their companies manage to deliver better returns than you'd get from closing your eyes and throwing a dart? "The Curse of the Mogul" lays bare the inexcusable financial performance beneath big Media's false veneer of power.
By rigorously examining individual media businesses, the authors reveal the difference between judging a company by how many times its CEO is seen in SunValley and by whether it generates consistently superior profits. The book is packed with enough sharp-edged data to bring the most high-flying, hot-air filled mogul balloon crashing down to earth.

320 pages, ebook

First published January 1, 2009

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About the author

Jonathan A. Knee

5 books6 followers
Jonathan A. Knee is a Professor of Professional Practice and Co-Director of the Media and Technology Program at Columbia Business School and also a Senior Advisor at Evercore Partners. His writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and The Atlantic. He writes the Book Entry column for the New York Times DealBook. Professor Knee is the author of The Accidental Investment Banker: Inside the Decade that Transformed Wall Street (Oxford: 2006), The Curse of The Mogul: What's Wrong With the World's Leading Media Companies? (Portfolio: 2009) (with Greenwald and Seave) and Class Clowns: How the Smartest Investors Lost Billions in Education (Columbia: 2016). His next book, The Platform Delusion: Who Wins and Who Loses in the Age of Tech Titans, will be released by Portfolio in September 2021.

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5 stars
74 (35%)
4 stars
76 (36%)
3 stars
40 (18%)
2 stars
15 (7%)
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6 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 15 of 15 reviews
11 reviews
October 15, 2013
1. Dare to dream, 2. Keep it local, keep it focused, 3. Efficiency is cool, 4. Don't be such a big shot, 5. Watch your back, 6. There is much to be said for dying with dignity.

Dow Jones-CBS Marketwatch, Microsoft-Yahoo!, Eisner (1984-1989), Murdoch, Bloomberg, EA (2001-2005), Nintendo (cartridges), Google, many more ..
Profile Image for Evan DeSimone.
1 review2 followers
September 28, 2020
Great for a broad view of the media ecosystem but less effective at predicting the future. This is the cost of reading a work like this ten years after publication, there are some great data points here that I had forgotten but it's much stronger looking backward than at trying to extrapolate industry trends.
Profile Image for Dao Le.
104 reviews4 followers
May 8, 2020
Useful summary of all the important concepts one might learn in business school applying to the media industry : competitive advantages - reinforce and cooperate if you have one, focus on operating efficiency if you don’t; content (or talent) is not king; local and specialized trumps unprofitable global growth; and (most) M&As are stupid.
33 reviews11 followers
February 11, 2020
A must read for media analysts. Great insight on competitive advantage and capital allocation decisions of media companies. Also good background information to understand the current streaming war.
Profile Image for Amir.
Author 4 books22 followers
May 3, 2012

"The Curse of the Mogul" is a fascinating research work on the media industry. Mr. Knee and Mr. Greenwald were able to dissect the media industry and discuss important topics such as the difference between perceived competitive advantages vs. real competitive advantages, areas in which you can find better investments in the media landscape as well as the internet impact on eroding once dominant organizations advantages.

The authors fascinating facts finding efforts, significant depth of evaluating competitive advantages and the landscape of many media companies as well as numerous examples of the impact of changes, will enable the reader to have a framework to use to overcome the “pixie dust” spread by the moguls and discover the true value of a media company as a long term investment. Highly recommended for all who wish to learn and invest in the media industry.

Amir Avitzur
74 reviews2 followers
March 25, 2016
Very insightful. Important point on ROI and evaluating shareholder value - best buoyed by competitive advantages such as scale and specialization. Investments must not be made just for sake of growth or because the targeted acquisition is glamorous. Does it bolster competitive advantage?

All competition is to strive for a degree of monopoly.
267 reviews
February 15, 2011
A thorough look at the lack of competitive advantages in the media industry and the foolish CEOs who continue to chase dreams that never materialize. Depressing, the worthlessness of content, but important to know.
July 25, 2013
Entertaining takedown of mogul egomania but more significantly an excellent, thorough dissection of the essence of competitive advantage and its evolution in the media industry. Highly recommended for those interested readers.
330 reviews5 followers
January 6, 2010
Slightly misnamed, very dry econ text of the media industry, but with interesting incites.
1 review5 followers
Currently reading
November 21, 2009
Knee/Greenwald/Seave present a succinct and practical lens through which to view business strategy generally, and media strategy specifically. It's excellent.
Profile Image for Jay.
28 reviews
August 6, 2011
Fantastic strategic study of the media industry and the growth strategies commonly employed
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Author 11 books30 followers
January 20, 2016
This clear-eyed, no-holds-barred analysis of the media industry debunks the conventional wisdom. It's a terrific book -- coming in Oct.
Profile Image for Yoel.
6 reviews1 follower
October 26, 2012

Very interesting read about the media industry albeit a bit too subjective for my taste.
Displaying 1 - 15 of 15 reviews

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