Neel Shah left the New York Post last month, concluding “a year-long fascination with the management style of his boss’ boss’ boss, Rupert Murdoch,” writes his friend (and cofounder of CollegeHumor.com) Ricky Van Veen. Why?
As Van Veen explains, it started last July, with an e-mail from Shah:
So I show up to work today wearing a short-sleeve collared shirt, boat shoes, and dressy shorts. It’s only the second time I’ve worn shorts to work, but it’s like 90 degrees out and, quite frankly, everyone at the Post dresses like a slob, so I actually look pretty good by comparison. Anyway. I go downstairs to the third floor cafeteria to get breakfast. I’m paying for everything, and shooting the shit with Sal, the dude who runs the cafe. And we’re bullshitting about the Mets, when all of a sudden the phone rings. Sal answers, “This is the NewsCafe. Oh, hello, Mr. Murdoch, how are you?”
So obviously my ears perk up at the mention of Our Fearless Leader. Sal looks at me oddly and goes, “Mr. Murdoch would like to know why you’re wearing short pants.” So I look at Sal and am like, “Dude, what the hell are you talking about?” And he continues talking into the phone without taking his eye off me and is like, “Yes, I see, okay, I’ll ask,” and then looks at me and goes, again, “Mr. Murdoch is inquiring again as to why you are wearing short pants in the office.” And I look at Sal and am like, “I do not follow. How does he know I’m wearing shorts?” And Sal covers the receiver and says, “He is in his office but he can see you. He has a camera down here.”
SUPER OH NOES!! This freaked out Shah, as it would anyone being told that their supreme overlord was judging their sartorial choices from the sky (or top floor). Of course, Murdoch wasn’t really hating on his shorts: it was a gag. Sal had been pocket-dialing the wall phone and having fake conversations.
He (and other News Corp staffers) kept the joke up for a year, feeding the rumors, continuing to have “Murdoch” comment on Shah’s clothing, and even getting “fake Murdoch” to have a short conversation with Shah.
“Neel concedes that he certainly comes off as someone who should have known better,” Van Veen says. “‘But,’ he adds in his defense, ‘It really was executed perfectly.’”
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