“This man is a journalist at heart”

Liz Claman recalls the days when she tried to book guests for her new show on Fox Business Network – and was turned down. “I remember calling Alan Mulally at Ford and saying, ‘Hey, come on the show,'” Claman told me. “And his PR people said, ‘Look, we’re not going to screw him.’ And I said, ‘Why not?’ And they said, ‘Because we can’t get you in Dearborn, Michigan.’”

How things have changed. This month, the Fox Business Network celebrated its 15th anniversary — a milestone many predicted would be for the fledgling business network, which launched in October 2007 with the bold intention of ousting CNBC as the most-watched business network on cable television , would never come. “When I think back to the first day, very few people watched us,” Claman said. “We may have – I don’t know, four people watch us,” she joked.

Fox had hired Claman from CNBC, where their show was held call in the morning was the network’s top rating performer, ranking first for eight consecutive quarters. Claman told me that after nine years at CNBC, she was ready to leave business news altogether — until Fox called.

“I was just exhausted,” she said. “I spent nine years there. And then Fox announced it was going to have a business network, and I was like, ‘Well, that’s nice — for them.’” But Claman says Fox’s pitch convinced them to sign on and painted a vision of a network that, as Rupert Murdoch said at the time, is about Main Street, not Wall Street. “When I spoke to them, I realized that I have to work for these people.”

Murdoch was poised to build on the success of Fox News Channel, and he had just become a force in business journalism with his $5 billion purchase of Dow Jones, the publisher of the most powerful brand in business. The Wall Street Journal. Quiet, few were convinced that Fox Business could compete with CNBC, which had just sold CNNfn, CNN’s rival business channel, which closed in 2004 after nine years of failing to solidify CNBC’s dominance.

When CNN pulled the plug on CNNfn, executives said proliferation had been a hurdle the network simply couldn’t overcome. CNNfn had never managed to grow beyond 30 million households – and DirecTV had announced plans to withdraw the network from its programming, which would have halved CNNfn’s reach.

Fox Business launched with essentially the same reach as CNNfn: 30 million homes – compared to CNBC, which reached 90 million homes in the US via cable and satellite systems – and a worldwide reach that brought that figure to 340 million homes. The deck seemed stacked in CNBC’s favor, but Fox Business had one thing CNNfn didn’t: Rupert Murdoch. He had given Fox News time to evolve from a co-managed competitor of CNN to the dominant force in cable news. Murdoch would grant Fox Business the same luxury: time. “I’m staying with things for at least a few years,” Murdoch said at the time, calling CNBC “half-dead.”

“The company said don’t worry,” Claman told me. She said she was given exceptional freedom to shape what would become Fox Business. “I was told, ‘We want you off the leash and you run in any direction you want as long as it’s business.’ And I said amen.”

When the Alan Mulallys of the world didn’t want to go on their show, Claman went to Silicon Valley and tried to book Elon Musk, who had just launched Tesla and was in the process of creating SpaceX. “I called him,” Claman said. “I said, ‘Hey, listen, I switched networks. I’m with Fox Business. Can we come and talk to you about what you do?’”

According to Claman, Fox was so new that her own brother drove her to Musk, who was willing to sit down and talk about the numbers behind Tesla and SpaceX. “And I said, no, no, we’re not the other business networks,” Claman said. “We want to hear when that’s coming. You co-founded PayPal, you are an immigrant. Where does the space thing come from? And his eyes just lit up.” Musk became a frequent guest, and years later when she met him at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and he recalled that interview. “And he said you took care of us when no one else would.”

Fifteen years later, Claman is again the top-rated female business news anchor – and in May, Fox Business ended the month as the top business news company, beating CNBC in the critical hours of the “business day” and ending the month with double-digit year-over-year growth while delivering the month with the highest business day rating since November 2020. Claman’s the Claman Countdown, the tenth most-watched business program on television, increased by 39 percent.

“People want to gut Rupert Murdoch,” Claman told me. She credits Murdoch with trusting his team would eventually find an audience and grow it into a powerhouse. “This man is a journalist at heart. And he stands by his journalists,” Claman said. “Rupert sees the world and the competition through a unique prism. And just like Warren Buffett told me, if you get a chance to work for someone like that, take it. I just feel very lucky.”

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