Lachlan Murdoch, the eldest son of Rupert Murdoch, has been anointed to take over his father’s vast media empire, capping years of rampant media speculation and thinly veiled fraternal feuding.
The decision, announced Thursday, makes 52-year-old Lachlan the sole chairman of Fox News’ parent company, Fox Corporation, and News Corporation, owner of the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and other newspapers.
Although his closest siblings, Elisabeth and James, had previously been seen as contenders for the throne, Lachlan’s ascension became all but guaranteed over the past few years. In lock step with his dad, Lachlan has co-chaired both Fox and News corporations, and was named CEO of Fox News in 2019.
Ninety-two-year-old Rupert Murdoch, one of the most influential media tycoons of the modern era, will continue to serve on the boards as chairman emeritus.
“We thank him for his vision, his pioneering spirit, his steadfast determination, and the enduring legacy he leaves to the companies he founded and countless people he has impacted,” Lachlan said in a statement Thursday.
The Murdochs’ seemingly boundless wealth — Forbes estimates the family is worth nearly $18 billion — and their at times messy behind-the-scenes feuding has long made them a source of intrigue in elite media and business circles. Writers for the HBO series “Succession” drew heavily on the Murdochs’ lives in their creation of the fictional Roy family. (HBO and CNN are owned by the same parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery.)
Rupert Murdoch grew his business from relatively modest roots, inheriting an Australian newspaper business from his father in 1952. Over the next seven decades, Murdoch pushed aggressively into British and American markets, buying up newspapers, launching the Fox network, acquiring the 20th Century Fox film studio and upending the cable news scene with the debut of Fox News in 1996.
With his second wife, Rupert welcomed three children: Elisabeth, Lachlan and James.
The two brothers, just 15 months apart in age, were deeply competitive as kids, and over the years they traded the roles of “heir apparent and jilted son,” according to a 2019 New York Times Magazine article on the family.
“It was no secret to those close to the family that Murdoch had always favored Lachlan,” according to the magazine.
Succession planning for his media behemoth appeared to begin in earnest in 2015, when Rupert named Lachlan and James as co-chairmen of 21st Century Fox.
But in 2020, James, who backed Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign and has donated to Democratic-leaning causes, dramatically broke with the company, citing “disagreements over certain editorial content,” among other reasons.
Elisabeth, who has been in and out of the family business while building her own career as a television producer, often felt she was being overshadowed by her brothers, according to a 2012 profile of her in the New Yorker. A family friend who was quoted in the profile compared Elisabeth to Cordelia, the devoted daughter in Shakespeare’s King Lear.
“She loves her father,” the friend told the magazine, “but she’s the wrong sex.”
Lachlan has been at the helm of Fox News since 2019, overseeing an era of rampant misinformation about the 2020 election and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although he has privately criticized Trump, people familiar with the matter told CNN last year, Rupert signaled to employees Thursday that Lachlan will maintain the network’s right-wing editorial bent.
“My father firmly believed in freedom, and Lachlan is absolutely committed to the cause,” Rupert said in a memo to staff.
Lachlan ultimately approved Fox’s extraordinary decision not to air the first live hearings conducted by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol. The network opted instead to run commentary on the hearing from right-wing presenters Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham.
At the time those hearings aired, Lachlan and his wife, Sarah, were relaxing on their $30 million yacht in the Sydney Harbour, according to a 2022 biography by Australian journalist Paddy Manning.