Media mogul Rupert Murdoch, 92, has formalized the transfer of power to his eldest son Lachlan, who will take over as chairman of the News Corp media group and Fox Corporation in mid-November. France 24 looks back on the checkered rise of the future boss of this media empire as powerful as it is controversial.
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It is the epilogue to the tumultuous succession saga within the Fox empire. Lachlan Murdoch, 52, will become president of the News Corp media group and Fox Corporation in mid-November, the sulphurous global information juggernaut and champion of conservatism. He succeeds his father, Rupert Murdoch, who will become honorary chairman of both companies.
The information was made official on Thursday, September 21, through a press release read on Fox News, paying tribute to the “indelible imprint” of the 92-year-old businessman, accused by his detractors of having favored, through its media, the rise of populism in Anglo-Saxon countries, and in particular in the context of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.
The third of Rupert Murdoch’s six children, Lachlan inherits an empire, comprising several hundred companies including many major press titles such as the Sun, the Times of London, the Wall Street Journal and the Daily Telegraph, but also the house publishing house HarperCollins or even the real estate advertising giant Rea Group, for a total value estimated in 2022 at nearly $22 billion.
Executive Chairman and CEO of Fox Corporation since 2019, Lachlan Murdoch was seen as the favorite to take over among his siblings, James, Prudence and Elisabeth. Between intra-family rivalries and conflicting relationships with his mentor father, Lachlan Murdoch’s rise has not been a smooth ride.
Born from Rupert Murdoch’s second marriage to Scottish journalist Anna Torv, then his employee at the Daily Mirror, Lachlan Murdoch studied at the prestigious American University of Princeton before joining his father’s group in Australia, where he experienced a meteoric rise. After managing the Queensland newspaper and then The Australian daily, he was promoted at the age of 25 to head the group’s operations in the country as general manager of News Ltd. The matter then seems to be settled, Lachlan Murdoch is on the royal road to succeed his father at the head of the group.
But in 2005, the man who then occupied third place on the News Corp organizational chart. suddenly resigns and leaves the United States to return to live in Australia with his wife and children. Lachlan Murdoch justifies this decision by the homesickness in which he built the first part of his career as well as the desire to spend more time with his family. Many observers then point to differences between father and son over the management of the group and the shadow of Rupert Murdoch which has become too heavy. Lachlan was reportedly repeatedly disowned by his father in front of the group’s executives.
The return of the prodigy
Although he retained a director position within the group, Lachlan Murdoch remained in the background for almost a decade, thanks to his younger brother James, who, in turn, rose through the ranks of the company .
In 2014, Lachlan began his return to business, as non-executive co-chairman of News Corp. He became executive chairman of 21st Century Fox the following year and then chairman and CEO of Fox Corporation in 2019, after the acquisition of 21st Century Fox by Disney.
In 2020, James resigned from the board of directors of News Corp citing strategic differences as well as “disagreements over certain editorial content, published by the company’s news outlets”. After coveting the presidency of the group following the departure of Lachlan, this culture enthusiast and former boss of a rap label had difficulty dealing with the increasingly conservative line of his company.
“James did not approve of the group’s support for Donald Trump or the climate skeptic ideology of Fox News,” explains David Colon, Associate Professor of History at IEP Paris and author of “Rupert Murdoch: The Media Emperor Who manipulates the world” (Paperback). “James’ distancing himself confirmed the return to favor of Lachlan, who was more Trump-compatible than his brother.”
Business before family?
Although he also had professional disagreements with his father, Rupert Murdoch’s eldest son does not feel the same discomfort with the ideology conveyed by the family business. Because behind his relaxed look and his tribal tattoos, Lachlan Murdoch claims pure conservatism on economic issues as well as those of morals. In April 2022, during a rare public speech, the chairman and CEO of Fox Corporation castigated the “elites” guilty of disregarding traditional values and the “tech censors” guarantor of the hegemony of the dominant discourse.
“Lachlan shares a certain number of conservative beliefs with his father. He is liberal and libertarian. But above all he understands that ideology comes second to business. For him, as for his father, the goal of politics is above all to promote interests of the family empire”, analyzes David Colon.
If the son and father now seem to be on the same wavelength, one question nevertheless remains unanswered: will Lachlan Murdoch really have free rein when he takes the helm of the group?
For David Colon, there is no doubt, the real boss remains Rupert Murdoch. “At his advanced age, this transfer is a way for him to protect himself. He is no longer on the front line, particularly in the event of a new trial. This does not mean that he is ready to let go of the reins. It is very likely that Lachlan will continue to evolve in his shadow until his death.”
As chairman emeritus, Rupert Murdoch retains four of the family holding company’s eight votes. But his disappearance would not necessarily make things easier for Lachlan; his father having already planned for his children to have equal voting rights in decisions about the company.