Rupert Murdoch is resigning from the boards of Fox and News Corporation, the companies announced Thursday morning. This means that his son Lachlan becomes sole managing director of the powerful global media empire that he built 70 years ago from a small local newspaper group in Australia.
The elder Mr. Murdoch will become chairman emeritus of the two companies, the companies said.
Mr Murdoch, 92, had shown no intention of stepping down or even slowing down – even after naming Lachlan 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 work as a consultant, said Lachlan Murdoch, 52, in a company statement. And the elder Mr Murdoch said in a statement to staff that he intended to take an active part in the consultation.
“We have every reason to be optimistic about the coming years – I certainly am and I plan to be here to take part,” he wrote. “As I visit your countries and companies, you can expect to see me in the office late Friday afternoon.”
Still, the announcement was potentially epochal, marking at least the formal end of an active career in which Mr. Murdoch built the world’s most important and politically influential media empire. His companies, steeped in a brand of right-wing populism, have amassed the power to shape presidents and prime ministers and sometimes determine success or failure.
He built this empire across three continents and helped change the norms and tastes in journalism, politics and popular culture throughout the English-speaking world. With the sensibility of a self-professed pirate, he acted with a willingness to move quickly and break things – before it was fashionable.
The tactic also drew legal trouble and was repeatedly condemned by critics and even former allies, particularly after stars of its Fox News Channel seized on former President Donald J. Trump’s 2020 election lies – leading to a settlement over 787, $5 million with the company at the center led by so much of it, Dominion Voting.
Although Lachlan Murdoch has a different face than his father – with tattoos and the trademark leather boots – he has so far represented continuity for the family business. Although he has taken a more aggressive stance in entering the streaming sphere – acquiring ad-supported entertainment streaming service Tubi in 2020, which has since increased in value – he has maintained the positioning of the companies’ more staunchly conservative affiliates.
In his current role, he led Fox News in 2020 and initially supported Tucker Carlson, the network’s right-wing extremist firebrand. Although he is also credited within the company with ousting Mr. Carlson from the Fox lineup after the Dominion deal in the spring, there is no sign of the younger Mr. Murdoch changing the channel’s overall course and far-right approach in advance is becoming another presidential election campaign with Trump potentially at the top of the Republican ticket.
So far, Lachlan Murdoch has not stepped forward aggressively to become the defining face of the company, as his father had done, and the world of politics and media will be watching closely to see whether he uses retirement as an opportunity to do so So.
There was no precipitating event for the elder Mr Murdoch’s announcement, other than the obvious fact that even the healthiest 92-year-old is in his final years.
And it has long been said among those who know Mr. Murdoch that he would rather retire while still being seen as smart and active – he was on the Fox lot this week – than as a diminished figure were.
But with his announced resignation, Mr. Murdoch also further consolidated the company under his chosen corporate heir, before a familial battle for control of the empire loomed after Mr. Murdoch’s eventual death.
Under the terms of the trust that controls the family’s shares 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 the empire’s future after his death; Until then, Mr Murdoch holds the majority vote.
Rupert Murdoch’s resignation in some ways formalizes the agreement he had already made after the Disney sale, which made Lachlan the day-to-day chief executive of the two companies at the heart of the Murdoch empire – Fox Corporation and News Corporation.
Indeed, the younger Murdoch’s titles – executive chairman and chief executive – remain virtually unchanged, save for the small change of him losing the “co-” he once shared with his father, who retained similar titles until Thursday morning.
Mr Murdoch’s attempt to name Lachlan as his chosen successor resulted in a row with his younger son James, who is more left-leaning than his father and brother and had, for example, been an advocate for a less strident and edgy version of Fox News .
He and his wife Kathryn have criticized climate change denial on the family channels, and James appeared to be referring to Fox News when describing the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 as “channels that spread lies to their audience.” brought connection. in an interview with the Financial Times.
People close to James Murdoch have raised the possibility that he would try to persuade his two sisters to vote with him to wrest control of the company from Lachlan following their father’s death and turn the company away from its defining populism.
But it’s unclear whether he would have the votes or whether he ultimately really wanted to force such a bitter family dispute. And if Mr Murdoch has his way, such a decision would be a long way off. He has often pointed out that his mother, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, died shortly before her 104th birthday. On Thursday he wrote to employees: “Our companies are in robust shape, just like me.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.