Bill O'Neill (media)

William Alan O'Neill (born May 22, 1936) is the Australian-American former media executive who, in a 50-year career, held multiple positions within News Corporation, including two separate terms as head of News International, a Director on the company's main board, and Executive Vice President of News Corporation with global responsibility for human resources.[1]

Bill O'Neill
Born (1936-05-22) May 22, 1936 (age 85)
CitizenshipUnited States/Australia
OccupationFormer Director of News Corporation
Former EVP of News Corporation
CEO of News International, EVP and GM of New York Post
Spouse(s)Alene Joy Brown, m. 1962
Parent(s)John O'Neill
Margaret Kitson

Early life and career

Bill O'Neill in 2014

O'Neill and his two brothers were born in Sydney, Australia, to Irish parents, John and Margaret O'Neill (née Kitson). They grew up in the northern suburb of Chatswood.

In 1952, he commenced a six-year apprenticeship as a hand and machine compositor with Truth and Sportsman, publisher of the Sydney Daily Mirror. After completing his apprenticeship and military draft commitment in the Australian Army, he traveled to the United States, where in 1958, he joined the International Typographical Union in San Francisco. He also worked for a time in Canada and was employed with The Vancouver Sun when, in 1958, it merged with the other major newspaper, The Province. He returned to Australia and the Daily Mirror as a Linotype operator just before the company was bought by Rupert Murdoch.[2]

He brought an interest in trade unionism with him from America and became a vice president of the New South Wales branch of the Printing Industries Employees' Union of Australia. Disenchanted with union politics,[3] he joined a research and development team within Murdoch's News Limited and after a short time was selected to lead the company's industrial relations. In 1981 he was sent to London to negotiate with the Fleet Street unions.[4] A successful agreement allowed Rupert Murdoch to purchase The Times and Sunday Times. O'Neill and fellow British negotiator, John Collier, were named Joint General Managers of Times Newspapers Limited and appointed to its board.[5]

In 1983 he negotiated with the print unions for their entry to the new print center at Wapping.[6] Talks broke down[7] and he took over duties in New York as Vice President/Labor Relations at News America.[8] His responsibilities involved the New York Post, the Boston Herald, the San Antonio Express-News and the Chicago Sun-Times.

In 1985 he was sent back to London to again negotiate with the print unions regarding Wapping.[9] These talks were unsuccessful and led to the 13-month-long Wapping dispute.[10]

Most of 1986 saw him fulfilling the role of General Manager at the New York Post[11] and meeting with the British unions in an attempt to bring the strike to an end.[12] The strike finally came to an end of February 6, 1987.[13] At the beginning of 1987 he took over as Managing Director of News International,[14] responsible for The Times, the Sunday Times, The Sun, the News of the World and later, the Today newspaper. He was appointed to the News Corporation Board of Directors[15] that year and served until 1990. He transferred management of News International to Gus Fischer and returned to the United States at the beginning of 1990 to lead News Corporation's global human resources program.[16]

On 25 November 1990, O'Neill arrived in Geneva, Switzerland to represent the United States as the employer delegate at a tripartite meeting[17] of the International Labour Organization. He had been nominated to attend by the American Newspaper Publishers Association. The week-long meeting was convened to discuss the international working conditions of journalists. Little was achieved and this led The Guild Reporter, voice of The Newspaper Guild to write in its issue of December 14, 1990, "the cause was the U.S. labor-management issues that simmered constantly beneath the surface."

O'Neill testified before a U.S. Congressional Committee in 1991 as an expert witness on the Striker Replacement Bill.[18] In 1993, he led the management team negotiating with the unions[19] that led to News Corporation reacquiring the New York Post.[20] That year, he became a United States citizen.

In 1995, he was back at Wapping,[21] this time as CEO,[22] while a management reshuffle was effected.[23] At year's end he handed over control of News International to incoming chairman, Les Hinton.

Until his retirement in 2002, he continued in his role as News Corporation's Executive Vice President of Human Resources. He left the company exactly 50 years from the day he started on the Sydney Daily Mirror as a 15-year-old apprentice.[24]

Following his retirement O'Neill compiled a memoir that dealt with his involvement in the acquisition of Times Newspapers, the Wapping Strike and the reacquisition of the New York Post. Since 2009 the memoir, titled "Copy Out!" has been available from the University of Warwick.[25]

In July 2011, at the height of the phone hacking scandal at the News of the World, he was contacted by the BBC's Business Daily Program[26] and interviewed on his years with News Corporation and his impression of Rupert Murdoch's contribution to the newspaper publishing industry.

Personal life

He married Alene Joy Brown in February 1962. She passed away on January 30, 2018.[27] He lives in San Antonio, Texas,[28] near daughter, Vicki. Their son, David, died on February 19, 2012, after, like his father, a lifetime career in newspapers.[29] O'Neill is a lifetime member of the American Australian Association.[30]


  3. The History of The Times, Graham Stewart, HarperCollins, London, 2005, p. 33; ISBN 978-0-00-718438-5
  4. Tough talker at The Times, Financial Times, February 9, 1981. Written by John Lloyd.
  5. "John Collier". The Times. June 3, 2005.
  6. Papers face jobs battle London Morning Star, March 16, 1983.
  7. EDDIE SHAH and the Newspaper Revolution, David Goodhart and Patrick Wintour, Coronet Books/Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1986. Page 264.
  8. New York Post, 29 March 1984.
  9. Full Disclosure, Andrew Neil, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., London, 1996, Page 106.
  10. The End of the Street, Linda Melvern, Methuen London Ltd., 1986. Page 241.
  11. Editor and Publisher, July 5, 1986
  12. Hot Mettle, Brenda Dean, Politico's Publishing Ltd., London, 2007. Page 172.
  13. [
  14. Don't look at us in terms of conflict, says O'Neill, UK Press Gazette, June 22, 1987.
  15. News Corporation directors appointed, New York Times, 11 June 1987.
  16. "Murdoch Units Shift Officials", New York Times, 18 January 1990.
  17. Tripartite Meeting on Conditions of Employment and Work of Journalists,; accessed 21 September 2017.
  18. Hearings on H.R.5, The Striker Replacement Bill, Committee on Education and Labor, 102nd U.S. Congress, March 13, 1991, Serial #102-19, pp. 387-404
  19. "Murdoch tells of $350,000 weekly deficits at the Post", New York Times', 3 April 1993.
  20. "Labor concessions gained by Murdoch restore The Post", New York Times, 13 July 1993.
  21. Wapping job for Post's Bill O'Neill, New York Post, March 17, 1995 (from Bloomberg Business News)
  22. "'A New Murdoch Aide in London", New York Times, 17 March 1995.
  23. Horsman, Mathew (18 March 1995). "Wapping crisis claims another casualty". London: The Independent.
  24. "Wapping dispute boss retires". Printweek. 18 January 2002.
  26. "BBC iPlayer - Business Daily: End of empire for Rupert Murdoch?". 20 July 2011. Retrieved 2012-03-05.
  28. London Guardian, July 12, 2011.
  29. "San Antonio Express-News Production Technician David O'Neill Dies at 47". Editor and Publisher. 24 February 2012.
  30. Who's Who (in Britain) 2001-2017, A & C Black, London, and Who's Who in Australia 2001-2017, Crown Content, Melbourne.