Rupert Murdoch Steps Back from Fox, News Corp

Unfortunately for the Lachlan Murdoch there is not much by way of peace in the kingdom, and indications are this may be a short reigns.

(Photo by Hudson Institute under CC BY 2.0)

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He is the eldest boy!

On Thursday, 92-year-old Rupert Murdoch announced he’s leaving his dual chair posts at Fox and News Corp, naming oldest son Lachlan Murdoch as his replacement. Unfortunately for the crown prince, there is not much by way of peace in the kingdom, and indications are this may not be the longest of reigns.

Heir and Balanced

Lachlan’s official ascension to the throne is entirely unsurprising to Murdochologists. He was named operating heir by Rupert in 2019 during the $70 billion sale of 20th Century Fox to Disney, a move that’s proven to be the legacy media coup of the century.

Fox News, the Fox broadcasting stations, and Fox Sports channels remain within the Murdoch family business, still buttressed by the publishing empire at News Corp. But since the sale, it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing:

  • In April, Fox News agreed to a nearly $800 million settlement to halt a defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting after its hosts repeatedly peddled conspiracy theories about the 2020 US election. The network then fired top-rated host Tucker Carlson, but still faces a lawsuit by Smartmatic, another voting machine company, for $2.7 billion in damages.
  • Significant shareholder backlash squandered Murdoch’s attempt to merge the two halves of his empire earlier this year. Around the same time, News Corp failed to sell its controlling interest in property listings group Move Inc. to rival CoStar in a deal valued in the “low billions”, according to the Financial Times.

Life Imitates Art: Lachlan’s reign may well end whenever it is that Rupert finally, well, retires permanently. The Murdoch family trust, which owns 40% of Fox and News Corp voting shares, will fall equally among Lachlan, younger brother James, and sisters Prudence and Elisabeth. And therein lies the game. Lachlan is likely to maintain the status quo, while James, publicly aghast with the brands’ “toxic politics” and willingness to spread “disinformation,” reportedly wants to steer the company sharply toward more mainstream politics should he ever seize control.

But that would require sisterly aid. The relatively liberal Elisabeth would prefer to sell the companies altogether, according to Murdoch biographer and journalist Michael Wolff in an appearance on the Puck/Ringer podcast The Town on Thursday. Prudence, mostly apolitical, tends to side with whichever side needs a winning vote. Oh, and sorry, Succession fans — no word yet on what any goofy cousin may think of all this.