Rupert Murdoch Hands Control of Fox Media Empire to Son Lachlan Murdoch

From a Washington Post story by Sarah Ellison and Will Sommer headlined “Rupert Murdoch hands control of Fox media empire to son Lachlan Murdoch”:

Rupert Murdoch is stepping down as the chairman of Fox Corporation and News Corp, ending a 70-year career that saw him rise from editor of a small Australian newspaper to become a driving force in global conservative media, most notably through Fox News, and a kingmaker in U.S. politics.

In a memo to Fox employees, Murdoch, 92, announced plans to become chairman emeritus at both companies. His son Lachlan, 52, will become the sole chair of News Corp — which oversees the Wall Street Journal and other print media properties — and continue as executive chair and CEO of Fox Corporation.

Murdoch’s exit comes after a challenging couple of months for the company. In April, Fox News settled a defamation lawsuit from election-technology company Dominion Voting Systems for $787.5 million — the largest publicly disclosed monetary settlement ever in an American defamation action — and later fired popular opinion host Tucker Carlson, leading to a downturn in ratings.

And the Murdochs have struggled with how to navigate their complicated relationship with Donald Trump — a candidate whose fortunes Fox News bolstered in 2016 but whom the elder Murdoch has soured on in recent years.

Yet Fox News remains the top-rated cable-news channel and has seen some of its post-Carlson losses reversed with a new prime-time lineup.

While the family succession plan has been in place for several years — Lachlan Murdoch’s younger brother James left the company in 2000 — the hand-off to the next generation came as something of a surprise.

The elder mogul had often joked that he planned to leave his companies “feet first.” When he beat prostate cancer in 1999, Murdoch famously quipped, “I’m now convinced of my own immortality,” and he often reminded people that his mother, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, lived until 103. Though he had struggled with health issues in recent years — a serious fall and a dire case of covid — Murdoch made a point to say in his parting statement that “our companies are in robust health, as am I.”

Murdoch took his inheritance at age 21 of a single newspaper in Adelaide and built it into a world-spanning media empire that today includes the New York Post, publishing giant HarperCollins and the U.K. newspapers the Sun and the Times. His net worth is estimated at $8.26 billion, according to Bloomberg.

Yet his empire had suffered a series of blows, starting with a phone-hacking scandal that enveloped his British newspapers in 2011, leading to the closure of his News of the World, resignations within his companies and the loss of major business opportunities, such as an attempt to buy satellite broadcaster BSkyB.

Two years later, Murdoch split his beloved News Corp in two, in order to sequester the seemingly toxic assets of his British newspaper empire from his television and movie assets, which were rebranded as 21st Century Fox. Still, in 2017, Murdoch sold the bulk of 21st Century Fox to Disney for $71.3 billion — motivated, in part, by his inability to get Lachlan and James to agree on a plan for the company’s future, according to people familiar with the family’s dynamics who requested anonymity to discuss private family deliberations. The remaining company, branded Fox Corp., was comprised primarily of Fox News, Fox Sports, and Fox television stations.

While Murdoch succeeded in anointing Lachlan as his successor in running both companies, he fell short earlier this year in his dream of reuniting the two halves of his empire after major shareholders balked.

Also see the New York Time story by Jim Rutenberg headlined “Rupert Murdoch to Retire From Fox and News Corporation Boards”:

Rupert Murdoch is retiring from the Fox and News Corporation boards, the company announced Thursday morning, making his son Lachlan the sole executive in charge of the global media empire he built from a small local newspaper concern in Australia starting 70 years ago.

The elder Mr. Murdoch will become chairman emeritus of the two companies, the company said.

Mr. Murdoch, 92, had shown no intention to step down or even slow down — even after he named Lachlan as the operating heir to his business empire in 2019, when he sold his vast entertainment holdings to the Walt Disney Company.

Even now, in his emeritus status, he will continue to offer counsel, Lachlan Murdoch said.

“We thank him for his vision, his pioneering spirit, his steadfast determination, and the enduring legacy he leaves to the companies he founded and countless people he has impacted,” Lachlan Murdoch, 52, said in a statement the company released Thursday morning.

The elder Mr. Murdoch’s retirement in a sense formalizes the arrangement he had already put in place after the Disney sale, which made his son the day-to-day executive in charge of the two companies at the heart of the Murdoch empire — Fox Corporation and News Corporation.

To wit, the younger Murdoch’s titles — executive chairman and chief executive — remain effectively unchanged, barring the small tweak of losing the “co-” he once shared with his father, who maintained similar titles until Thursday morning.

Though striking a different visage than his father — with tattoos and trademark leather boots — Lachlan Murdoch has so far represented continuity for the family companies. Though the company’s holdings include The Wall Street Journal, Fox broadcasting and Tubi, it has been more defined by the populist conservative voices at Fox News and The Sun tabloid in Britain.

There was no precipitating event for the announcement, beyond that obvious fact that even the healthiest 92-year-old is in his twilight years.

And it has long been said among those who know Mr. Murdoch that he would prefer to retire while still viewed as sharp and active — he was on the Fox lot this week — than as a diminished figure.

But with his announced retirement, Mr. Murdoch was also further solidifying the company beneath his chosen business heir ahead of a looming, family battle for control of the empire after Mr. Murdoch’s eventual death.

Under the terms of the family trust that controls the family’s stake in the empire, each of Mr. Murdoch’s four eldest children — Lachlan Murdoch, Elisabeth Murdoch, James Murdoch and Prudence Murdoch — will have an equal vote on its future following his death; until then, Mr. Murdoch holds the controlling vote.

Jim Rutenberg is a writer at large for The Times and the Sunday magazine. He was previously the media columnist, a White House reporter and a national political correspondent. He was part of the team that won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2018 for exposing sexual harassment and abuse.

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