News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch took a swipe at Tom Cruise on Sunday in a series of tweets that labeled the Hollywood star a No. 2 or No. 3 person in the hierarchy of Scientologists, a group the media mogul called "creepy."
Cruise, a star of the Mission: Impossible movies, has long been a prominent member of the Church of Scientology, which some have described as a cult. The actor made headlines on Friday when it was revealed his wife, Toledo native and actress Katie Holmes, had filed for divorce and is seeking sole custody of their daughter, Suri.
"Scientology back in news. Very weird cult, but big, big money involved with Tom Cruise either number two or three in hiearchy (sic)," Murdoch posted Sunday on his official Twitter feed. Later in the day, he tweeted: "Watch Katie Holmes and Scientology story develop. Something creepy, maybe even evil, about these people."
Murdoch acknowledged his tweets would be controversial about an hour afterward with: "Since Scientology tweet hundreds of attacks. Expect they will increase and get worse and maybe threatening. Still stick to my story."
It is not often that a high-profile media mogul like Murdoch — News Corp owns the Fox brand of TV networks and movie studios and various media companies worldwide — attacks a major movie star such as Cruise publicly, although it has happened to Cruise before.
In 2006, Viacom Inc.'s Sumner Redstone caused a stir when he criticized Cruise after the movie star and Viacom's Paramount Pictures ended a production deal following the lackluster box office performance of Mission: Impossible III.
"We don't think that someone who effectuates creative suicide and costs the company revenue should be on the lot," Redstone told the Wall Street Journal at the time. "His recent conduct has not been acceptable to Paramount."
Redstone was referring to interviews Cruise gave that year that made headlines worldwide for Cruise's behavior, including jumping on Oprah Winfrey's talk show couch and professing his love for Holmes in front of millions on U.S. television.
Holmes filed for divorce in New York while Cruise was filming in Iceland.
Handing off baton
Stefan Sanderling is making an early exit from the Florida Orchestra.
The orchestra announced late Sunday that Sanderling, who also is principal conductor of the Toledo Symphony, is stepping down as music director two years sooner than he said he was a year ago, when the conductor announced he would not renew his contract after it expired at the end of the 2013-14 season.
"This has been in the works about two months," orchestra president Michael Pastreich said. In Pastreich's account, the subject first came up when he and orchestra board chair Tom Farquhar met with Sanderling in the conductor's dressing room at Ruth Eckerd Hall in late April after a Sunday night concert, and Sanderling asked to be released from his contract. "I wasn't surprised," Pastreich said. "I think Stefan's career is heading in a different direction."
Sanderling, music director since the 2003-04 season, had been scheduled to conduct 10 of the 14 masterworks programs in the upcoming season, with a similar obligation for 2013-14. Now he will conduct only one program in each of the next two seasons.
Sanderling, 48, who has been designated conductor emeritus and artistic adviser of the orchestra, is spending the summer in Europe.In Toledo, Sanderling will lead at least eight programs in the 2012-13 season. He also will conduct a Toledo Opera production of Mozart's Don Giovanni in February. According to industry Web site Musical America, about three months ago he rejoined the roster of Columbia Artists Management, a leading talent agency for conductors that had previously represented him, a move that suggested he was positioning himself for more guest engagements once his commitments in Florida were dispatched.
The music director's compensation from the Florida Orchestra was not disclosed on a recent tax return. It is estimated that Sanderling, who owns a house in St. Petersburg, was paid between $180,000 to $200,000 a year.