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Jesse Angelo: Rupert Murdoch's Main Man

Meet the wily wunderkind editor chosen to run News Corp.'s $30 million iPad daily.

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Men'sWeek issue 02/03/2011

NEW YORK — On Wednesday morning, News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch was in the basement at the Guggenheim Museum here and spoke like this would be a day to be remembered. He held an iPad that was opened to his latest ridiculously expensive investment in news, The Daily, and said that it could “completely reimagine our craft.” It was something that would make “the business of news gathering and news editing viable again.” It would usher in an era of “new journalism.”

This was a day eight months in the making for Murdoch. And ever since the idea of The Daily came to him one restless night last May, there was only one person he wanted to carry out his mission.

“His idea was very simple,” said Jesse Angelo, the 37-year-old editor of The Daily. “He just came in and said, ‘Could we start a new national newspaper? No paper, no trucks. And just do it on the iPad.’ And you sort of went ‘Huh! That’s a good idea.’ I was proud and honored that he would think of me to do it.”

Especially because Murdoch has given Angelo a $30 million budget, which, since Labor Day, he has partially used to assemble a team more than 100 strong.

“How many times in your life do you get a chance to do that?” he asked.

If The Daily is the culmination of everything that Murdoch has learned after decades in the news business — a low price point, news stories mixed with photos of babes, big sports coverage — then Angelo is the person he has chosen to make good on his promise that The Daily will change the news.

Angelo has already spent most of his life in the Murdoch orbit. He’s known Murdoch’s son James since they were in kindergarten. They went to Harvard together, and Angelo was the best man at his wedding in 2000. (In his speech, Angelo, roasting James Murdoch, said, “A best friend would stop you from getting a tattoo. A best friend would stop you from starting a hip-hop label. A best friend would stop you from getting a second tattoo. A best friend would stop you from getting kicked out of Harvard.”) Rupert Murdoch is the only person Angelo has ever worked for in his career.

On the surface, Angelo’s ascent looks like it was ripped right out of the Sulzberger playbook on how to groom an heir. He got educated. He did pit stops at Murdoch’s papers in England and Australia. At The New York Post, he worked his way up from stringer to executive editor. It seemed only inevitable that he would get to run something.

“It’s funny because you could kind of think, ‘Oh, he was able to get in and do well because he knows the Murdochs,’ ” said Jon Elsen, a former business editor at the Post and the Times, who oversaw Angelo’s time on the Post’s business desk. “I think it’s actually the opposite. I think he decided to go to News Corp. and stay at News Corp. because he’s close to the Murdochs. He probably could have gone anywhere. It’s really to the benefit to News Corp. that they had that connection with him.”

Around 10 years ago, then Post editor in chief Xana Antunes had a meeting with Angelo, who was then deputy business editor. He had only been at the paper for a few years, but he’d received lots of good reviews, and she wanted to find a way to get him on the news desk. She was thinking about a few options and, after several minutes of hemming and hawing, finally asked him, “Well, what do you want to do?”

“I want to do whatever I need to do to get into your job,” said Angelo, according to several people familiar with the meeting.

He was in his late 20s, but he was ambitious. He made no secret that one day he wanted to be editor of his favorite newspaper, the Post. And colleagues of Angelo’s throughout the years said there wasn’t much resentment, despite his decidedly un-Post-like upbringing.

Angelo was born in 1973 and grew up on Central Park West. His father, John Angelo, founded the firm Angelo, Gordon & Co., which today manages about $23 billion in assets. John Angelo also kept powerful company and has been lifelong friends with Michael Eisner and the former Disney chief is Jesse’s godfather. Judy Hart Angelo, Jesse’s mother, is the co-writer of theme songs for “Cheers,” “Mr. Belvedere” and “Punky Brewster.” Both of Jesse’s parents have served on elite boards in New York: John is on the board of directors at Sotheby’s, along with James Murdoch and Diana Taylor; Judy has been on the boards of Central Park Conservancy and the Manhattan Theater Club. They currently live in The Dakota.

Angelo attended the Trinity School, but it wasn’t until he was about 15 that he started getting into journalism. “In high school, I just started reading papers and fell in love with them,” he recalled.

After his sophomore year at Harvard, Angelo took a year off from school and went to London to work at the best-selling paper in the U.K., Murdoch’s tabloid, The Sun. It was a typical entry-level gig (fetched coffee, tagged along with reporters, learned shorthand) and, after 10 months, he was so seduced by the Sun that he wanted to stay behind and leave school, but his mother suggested that wasn’t the best idea. He went back to college.

At Harvard, Angelo was a history and literature major and wrote his thesis on an obscure bit of journalism history about two New York newspapers being shut down by the government in 1864 after they published something called “The Bogus Proclamation.”

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