Rupert Murdoch steps down as chair of Fox, News Corp.


Rupert Murdoch has stepped down as the chairman of Fox Corp. and News Corp., ending a more than seven-decade career during which he created a media empire spanning from Australia to the United States.

His son, Lachlan Murdoch, who was made co-chairman of News Corp. in March 2014, will become the sole chairman of the firm and continue as the chair and CEO of Fox, the companies said on Thursday. The transition solidifies Lachlan’s role as the leader of the media empire, putting to rest questions of succession within the Murdoch family.

The news comes just months after Murdoch, 92, scrapped a plan that would have reunited his media empire by merging Fox and News Corp.

Murdoch, who has near-controlling stakes in both the companies, will be appointed chairman emeritus of both the companies.

Vows to stay involved

In a memo to staff Thursday, Murdoch wrote: “Our companies are in robust health, as am I.”

“In my new role, I can guarantee you that I will be involved every day in the contest of ideas,” Murdoch wrote. “Our companies are communities, and I will be an active member of our community. I will be watching our broadcasts with a critical eye, reading our newspapers and websites and books with much interest.”

Earlier this year, Fox settled a defamation lawsuit with Dominion Voting Systems for $787.5 million US, averting a trial in which Rupert Murdoch, Lachlan Murdoch and Fox executives and hosts were expected to testify.

The trial would have put Fox in the crosshairs over its amplification of false vote-rigging claims in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Legal experts have said the settlement was the largest ever struck by an American media company.

“Many of his enterprises still produce a lot of important news, which helps keep the world informed in ways that might not have occurred were it not for his leadership,” said Brian Wieser, media analyst at advisory firm Madison and Wall.

“But it’s impossible to ignore the other side of that, where Fox News amplified toxicity in the U.S. political environment, and other properties similarly impacted other territories.”

Succession questions

Murdoch, who has six children, has long desired that they eventually take the reins of the empire. His son James had been CEO of 21st Century Fox prior to the company’s decision to sell its film and television assets to Walt Disney Co. for $71.3 billion US, a deal that closed in 2019.

James then channeled proceeds from the deal into a private investment firm, Lupa Systems. Lachlan was made CEO of the new Fox Corp. in March 2019.

Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan Murdoch attend the Super Bowl in 2017.
Rupert Murdoch and son Lachlan Murdoch attend Super Bowl 51 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, in February 2017. (Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters)

Upon Murdoch’s death, his other children could challenge Lachlan’s power. Murdoch controls News Corp and Fox Corp through a Reno, Nev.-based family trust that holds a roughly 40 per cent stake in voting shares of each company. He also holds a small amount of shares of the companies outside of the trust.

Each of Murdoch’s four adult children has a stake in the trust. However, his youngest daughters, Chloe and Grace, from his third wife, Wendi Deng, do not have voting rights in the trust.

The transfer of News Corp. and Fox Corp. voting shares from Murdoch to his four adult children could create a scenario in which three of the children could outvote a fourth, potentially setting up a battle over the future of the companies, even as Lachlan Murdoch steps into his new role.

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