In 2005, a frustrated 33-year-old Lachlan Murdoch had lunch with his father in Los Angeles and delivered an unwelcome message: After 11 years at News Corp., he had had enough. Other executives didn’t respect him, and to make matters worse, Rupert Murdoch often seemed to take their side. Rupert offered to make changes, but Lachlan was adamant. He wants to go out.
Days after the meeting, News Corp issued a statement saying Rupert’s eldest son and presumed heir, Lachlan, would be leaving the company. According to the “Wall Street Journal” report, this news is like a bombshell within Murdoch’s media empire. successor, Paddy Manning’s Unauthorized Biography of Lachlan.
Lachlan, his wife Sarah and young son moved to Sydney, giving his siblings Elizabeth and James the opportunity to make their case for becoming Rupert’s chosen successor. Instead, Lachlan embarked on his own business ventures, with mixed results, and indulged in his favorite pastimes – yachting, rock climbing and motorcycle riding. But his time in Australia has also raised questions about whether he really wants to take over his father’s media empire. A former News Corp executive noted that even when Lachlan returned to work in 2014, people often doubted whether he was “fully committed”.
Now, however, those issues appear to have finally been resolved after the 92-year-old Rupert announced this week that he would step down as chairman of Fox and News Corp., handing over power to Lachlan.
But for the Murdoch family, the succession drama never seems to end. The question now is what happens when Rupert dies and the Murdoch family trust falls into the hands of Lachlan and his siblings. There has been speculation that Elizabeth, James and their sister Prudence Murdoch – whose political views are considered to be to the left of conservative Lachlan – may vote to replace him at the helm of the media empire.
The former News Corp executive said Rupert’s move this week was to “consolidate his position while Lachlan is still around”. “But that doesn’t fully protect Lachlan from his siblings once Rupert eventually leaves.”
Media observers have obsessively analyzed these issues, especially after the HBO series aired succession This was partly inspired by family. But they are also tied to a polarized media landscape in which the Murdoch family’s TV networks and newspapers continue to wield significant influence and stoke controversy.
Politicians and the public have long understood the transactional nature of Rupert Murdoch’s politics. Yes, he is conservative. But he also longed for influence and power – and when he smelled a winner, that led him to Britain’s Labor Party’s Tony Blair. Little is known about Lachlan’s views, although they are believed to be those of his father.
This year, Fox was forced to pay $787.5 million to settle defamation claims by Dominion Voting Systems, which accused the news network of spreading conspiracy theories about fraud in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, rattling the Murdoch empire. Viet Dinh, a close friend of Lachlan who directed legal strategy in the Dominion case, quit the company in August. Firebrand right-wing host Tucker Carlson also left Fox.
Yet in a note to staff this week, Rupert Murdoch pulled no punches, lashing out at the “elites” and his rivals in the media industry. While Murdoch may despise those elites, there is no doubt that he and his second wife Anna chose to raise their children in an elite environment. Their early years were spent on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, with Lachlan attending Dalton and other prestigious schools before graduating from Princeton University.
As a young man, Lachlan worked at Murdoch’s Australian newspaper, falling in love with the country and developing an affection for the family business there. But in 2000, he moved to New York to work at News Corp., where he came to admire Colonel Allen, the New York Post’s urinary editor.
“Lachlan liked the company’s history of tabloid journalism,” the former News Corp employee said. However, he bristled at the power of some other executives in the New York operation, including then-well-regarded chief operating officer Peter Chernin, and then-Fox News CEO Roger Ailes (Roger Ailes). It was the strained relationship with Chernin and Ayers, as well as his father, that led to his departure from the company.
Now that Lachlan is the sole chairman of News Corp. and chairman and CEO of Fox, he shouldn’t face the problem of others trying to pull up the rankings. But even after announcing plans to quit, questions remain about how far Rupert will go.
“In my opinion, he’s not the kind of guy who’s going to step back from behind the scenes,” said one media investor. “He’s still as sharp as a pin.”
Murdoch said in a memo to staff that he had no intention of leaving. People who have worked with his son say his almost obsessive drive is one of the things that sets him apart from his son.
“I don’t think anyone expected Lachlan to stay with the company until he was 92,” one person said. “His dad was focused on the business, while Lachlan enjoyed other things, like rock climbing or rugby league, or having a beer with friends. There were many things he enjoyed outside of the media business.”