Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. Sign up for the daily digest chronicling the evolving media landscape here.
Lachlan Murdoch is stepping onto center stage.
On Wednesday, his father, Rupert Murdoch, officially stepped down as chairman of News Corporation, the print publishing arm of the billionaire mogul’s powerful media empire, marking the end of an era. Rupert, who maintained he will continue an “active role” in the company, will formally transition to chairman emeritus of Fox Corporation, the parent company of Fox News and other broadcasting assets, at the company’s annual meeting on Friday.
In his final remarks on Wednesday to the News Corporation board as chairman, Murdoch hit on a number of topics. He spoke about the “opportunities and the challenges” with artificial intelligence. He drew attention to The Wall Street Journal’s Evan Gershkovich, who remains detained in Russia. And he, yet again, assailed the “intolerant elite” who he claimed “regard differing opinions as anathema.” (Yes, Rupert somehow manages to continue to do this without a hint of irony).
But, he saved his most important remarks for last. The nonagenarian ended his remarks by heaping praise on his eldest son, portraying Lachlan as a worthy successor to him, a man fit to sit on the throne and lead his publishing empire into the future. He described Lachlan as a “principled leader” and a “believer in the social purpose of journalism.”
“Like my father, I believe that humanity has a ‘high destiny,’ and Lachlan certainly shares that belief,” Rupert said. “That sense of destiny is not just a blessing, but a responsibility.”
While Lachlan, 52, has certainly been in his father’s shadow during his time in the family business, he has served in senior leaderships roles at Murdoch companies for decades. His profile rose when he took on the role of executive chairman in 2015 at what was then 21st Century Fox. After Disney acquired the bulk of Fox’s assets, Lachlan edged out his younger brother, the more progressive James Murdoch, 50, and became chief executive and chairman of the slimmed down company.
In that post as chief executive, Lachlan has at times been described as an aloof figure spending great deals of time in Australia, far from the businesses he oversees. But he has made some notable business moves of his own. In 2020, for instance, he spearheaded Fox’s acquisition of the advertiser-supported Tubi for $440 million. By 2023, Tubi’s value had grown so much that Fox reportedly turned down a $2 billion offer to purchase it.
That said, when succession intrigue at the Murdoch empire arises in conversation, the focus is never on assets like Tubi, and almost always about the political ramifications. The most notable Murdoch asset is the right-wing channel Fox News, which has unleashed torrents of dishonest and dangerous propaganda upon the world, much of it recently in service of the disgraced former President Donald Trump who is trying to regain power.