On Thursday Rupert Murdoch, 92, for decades the head of News Corp and Fox Corporation, which together constitute one of the most important conglomerates in the media industry, said he would leave the leadership of the family companies to his son Lachlan.
Lachlan is Murdoch’s eldest son with his second wife Anna Maria Torv. He is 52 years old and was born in London, but as a child he moved with his family to New York, where his father had bought the New York Post in 1976. He studied at Princeton University, but even before graduating he had already had his first managerial experiences in his father’s company: he obtained his first managerial positions at the age of 22, as publisher of some important newspapers in Australia, the family’s country of origin .
Since then he obtained continuous promotions: at 25 he became executive director of News Corp, and over the years he consolidated a very important position in the company. Even then, speculation began that one day he would be designated by his father as head of the company. In 2005, however, Lachlan suddenly abandoned his roles, due to differences with Roger Ailes, at the time president of the US television channel Fox News, going to Australia and creating a private investment fund.
Conflicts over inheritance
Rupert Murdoch has long had the reputation of being particularly cynical and unscrupulous in both business and private life. He often deliberately created situations of conflict between his numerous children, and Lachlan became head of the family businesses only after nearly twenty years of competition with his brothers and sisters. The complicated family events inspired the cult series Succession, which is about the legacy of an information magnate (screenwriter Jesse Armstrong initially thought of it as a biographical series on Murdoch).
Rupert Murdoch had six children, by three of his four wives: Prudence with first wife Patricia Booker, Elisabeth, Lachlan and James with Anna Maria Torv, Grace and Chloe with Wendi Deng. In particular, Elisabeth, Lachlan and James are the ones who had the most important roles in their father’s companies, and have always seemed the most likely candidates to succeed him.
With Lachlan’s resignation in 2005, the favorite seemed to have become his younger son, James. James is considered the least conservative member of the family, which however for a long time managed media close, or very close, to the right, first and foremost Fox News, the most watched cable channel in the United States, with a line that for years was very close to that of Donald Trump.
Due to these editorial differences, and because some important roles were taken away from him after the sale of part of the company to Disney, in 2020 James resigned from the board of directors of Fox Corporation, the last important role left to him in the family companies.
Lachlan, who had since returned to Fox, in a position that some say was designed by his father specifically to put him in competition with James, became CEO of Fox Corporation in 2019, and was promoted further thereafter. With Wednesday’s decision, his father seems to have declared him heir beyond any dispute: but upon his father’s death, his shares will be divided equally between the four eldest sons. To maintain the voting power needed to control the corporate conglomerate, Lachlan may have to bargain with his brothers.
Like his father, Lachlan has a conservative political orientation, and this is reflected in the products of News Corp and Fox Corporation: the Fox News channel was for a long time the only major television network to support Trump and very frequently hosted commentators favorable to him , effectively influencing the opinion of conservative US voters.
For a few years, however, relations between the Murdochs and Trump have cooled, also due to some lawsuits brought against Fox for having spread false information regarding the 2020 US elections. In one of these, the company had agreed to pay 787 Millions of dollars. Lachlan himself had to pay $800,000 in legal fees to an Australian news site, Crikey, which accused him of being morally responsible for the January 6, 2021 assault on the US Congress.
The distancing from Trump, for example with the firing of the popular and controversial host Tucker Carlson, has damaged Fox News, and has allowed the emergence of a series of new even more right-wing television channels that have taken away a small but significant part of it of spectators. In the coming months, Lachlan will have the delicate task of leading the family media empire in the 2024 presidential campaign, in which Trump will almost certainly once again be the Republican candidate.
For some time now, Lachlan has seemed intent on diversifying the business of his family’s companies, which are extremely dependent on television broadcasts, a sector that has been in decline for years. In recent years he has purchased Tubi, an ad-supported streaming service, and Credible Labs, an online financial services provider.
– Read also: The tangled saga of Rupert Murdoch’s legacy