Rupert Murdoch will retire from the board of Fox and News Corporation, making his son Lachlan the sole executive in charge of the powerful global media empire he built from a small local newspaper in Australia 70 years ago, the companies announced Thursday morning.
The companies said the elder Murdoch would become honorary chairman of the companies.
Mr. Murdoch, 92, has shown no intention of stepping down or even slowing down — including after he named Lachlan as the operating heir to his business empire in 2019, when he sold his vast entertainment holdings to Walt Disney Co.
Although the move puts the Murdoch family businesses more tightly under Lachlan’s control, a bruising succession battle may still loom. After Rupert Murdoch’s death, his four adult children will have to work among themselves to identify his eventual successor, based on a plan he put into action nearly two decades ago.
Mr Murdoch has made clear his wishes regardless of Lachlan’s promotion. For now, he will continue to advise in his honorary role, Lachlan said in a company statement. In his own statement to staff, the elder Mr Murdoch indicated that he would do this actively and regularly.
“We have every reason to be optimistic about the years ahead — I certainly am, and I plan to be here to share in them,” he wrote. “I will watch our radio programs with a critical eye, read our newspapers, websites and books with great interest, and reach out to you with thoughts, ideas and advice.”
However, the announcement was potentially historic, marking at least the official end of an active career during which Mr. Murdoch built the most important and politically influential media empire on the planet. His companies, imbued with a kind of right-wing populism, have gained the power to shape, and sometimes make or break, presidents and prime ministers.
He built that empire across three continents, helping to change mores and tastes in journalism, politics, and popular culture throughout the English-speaking world. Using your hacker sense, act with a desire to move fast and break things – before it becomes popular.
These tactics have also sparked legal troubles and a steady stream of condemnation from critics and even former allies, especially after his Fox News stars embraced former President Donald J. Trump’s lies in the 2020 election — leading to a $787.5 million legal settlement with Dominion Voting. , which is the company in the middle of many of them. Other related lawsuits are still pending, including one seeking $2.7 billion in damages.
Lachlan Murdoch, although he had a different look than his father – with tattoos and trademark leather shoes – has so far represented the continuity of the family business. Although it has taken a more aggressive stance in entering the streaming space – taking on ad-supported entertainment Tubi streaming service in 2020 Which has since gained its value – it has maintained the status of a more conservative corporate outlet.
He was in his current position overseeing Fox News in 2020 and was initially supportive of the network’s far-right leader Tucker Carlson. He was also credited within the company with forcing Mr. Carlson out of the Fox lineup after the Dominion settlement in the spring. But there is no sign that the younger Mr. Murdoch will change the network’s general course and far-right approach in the run-up to another presidential campaign that could put Mr. Trump at the top of the Republican ticket.
So far, Lachlan Murdoch has not stepped forward in any aggressive way to be the face of the company as his father was, and the political and media world will be watching closely to see if he takes retirement as an opportunity to do so. So.
There was no event that precipitated Murdoch’s declaration of seniority, other than the obvious fact that even the healthiest 92-year-old is in his twilight years.
It has long been said among those who know Murdoch that he would prefer to retire while still seen as sharp and energetic — he was on Fox this week — rather than as a greatly diminished figure.
But as he announced his retirement, Mr. Murdoch was also working to consolidate the company under his handpicked business heir ahead of a looming family battle for control of the empire after Mr. Murdoch’s eventual death.
Under the terms of the trust that controls the family’s stake in the empire, each of Mr Murdoch’s four eldest children – Lachlan Murdoch, Elizabeth Murdoch, James Murdoch and Prudence Murdoch – will each have an equal vote on his future after his death; Until then, Mr Murdoch retains the controlling voice.
Rupert Murdoch’s retirement, in a sense, formalizes the arrangement he had already put in place after the sale of Disney, which made Lachlan the CEO in charge of the day-to-day business of the two companies at the heart of the Murdoch empire – Fox Corporation and News Corporation.
It is worth noting that the younger Murdoch’s titles – chairman and chief executive – remain virtually unchanged, except for the minor change of losing the “partner” he once shared with his father, who held similar titles until Thursday morning.
Mr Murdoch’s move to appoint Lachlan as his successor was followed by a lasting rift with his younger son James, who leans further to the left than his father and brother and has been an advocate, for example, of a less strident and more spiritual politics. Polygon version of Fox News.
He and his wife, Catherine, have criticized climate change denial in family-controlled outlets. James appeared to be at least partly referring to Fox News when he linked the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol to “outlets that spread lies to their audiences,” in an interview with The Guardian. Financial TimesHe blamed them for unleashing “malicious and uncontrollable forces.”
People close to James Murdoch, now a major technology and media investor, have raised the possibility that he will seek to rally his two sisters to vote with him to wrest control of the company from Lachlan.
But it is unclear whether he will have the votes or ultimately the will or interest to force this kind of painful family fighting. Elizabeth, who is now the CEO of sister Entertainment studio and company Prudence have kept their opinions on the family business private.
If Mr. Murdoch Sr. were to achieve his goals, such a decision would be far-fetched. He has often noted that his mother, Lady Elizabeth Murdoch, died before her 104th birthday. As he wrote to employees on Thursday, “Our companies are healthy, and so am I.”
The term “semi-retirement” was used inside the Fox offices on Thursday, suggesting that it may be too early to write an obituary for Murdoch at the company yet.
In his statement to staff on Thursday, Murdoch wrote: “The battle for freedom of expression and, ultimately, freedom of thought, has never been more intense.” While Lachlan was “fully committed to the cause,” Murdoch wrote, he planned to remain “engaged every day in the contest of ideas.”
He also had a message for his old enemies in the so-called “MSM,” or mainstream media, writing that “most of the media” were “in cahoots” with “elites” who had “open contempt for those who are not members of their rarefied class.”
It was not very different from the language he used when he first arrived in the United States in the early 1970s, criticizing the “intellectual showmanship” of popular journalists who, in his view, had lost touch with all the self-celebration. From the post-Watergate era. “We are here to give the audience what they want,” he said, offering an alternative.
It all came down to it: his first foray into the American newspaper market, which revitalized the old populist style. It was created by Fox Broadcasting, which broke the three networks’ oligopoly stranglehold on prime-time television and introduced the kind of exciting programming that is now a staple of live broadcasting. The birth of Fox News, which became No. 1 in cable news by giving a very specific audience what it wanted — those conservative-leaning Americans who had long felt ignored by a traditional journalism world they viewed as biased against them.
However, he also helped run an illegal hacking operation in Britain, to give British tabloid readers what they wanted — juicy, newsworthy inside details about celebrities — as well as the 2020 election coverage that prompted the Dominion lawsuit, to satisfy Trump fans who made up much of the audience. Fox.
It is now Lachlan’s responsibility to keep this audience satisfied amid the new demands and challenges of the streaming age, and for a more fragmented media landscape – leaving a new chapter to be written by a Murdoch not named Rupert.
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