Rupert Murdoch today announced that he is stepping down from his role as chairman of Fox and News Corp after 70 years – with his son Lachlan taking over.
The Australian-born billionaire will be taking on a new role of Chairman Emeritus, declaring the ‘time is right’ to take on different roles and ‘our companies are in robust health, as am I’.
His son Lachlan will become the sole chairman of both Fox and News Corp after following the businesses’ Annual General Meetings in mid-November – taking on a media empire that has made the Murdochs worth an estimated $21.7billion (£17.6billion).
In an extraordinary letter to staff, 92-year-old Mr Murdoch, who owns the The Sun, Times and Sunday Times newspapers in the UK as well as Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post in the US, said: ‘The time is right for me to take on different roles, knowing that we have truly talented teams and a passionate, principled leader in Lachlan.
‘We have every reason to be optimistic about the coming years – I certainly am, and plan to be here to participate in them. But the battle for the freedom of speech and, ultimately, the freedom of thought, has never been more intense’.
Insisting that he is not stepping back from the day-to-day running of his his empire he said: ‘For my entire professional life, I have been engaged daily with news and ideas, and that will not change. In my new role, I can guarantee you that I will be involved every day in the contest of ideas’.
Murdoch has been married four times and has six children. There has long been public speculation about which of his four older children — Prudence, Elisabeth, Lachlan and James, would take over a media empire spanning from Australia to the US and UK built over more than 70 years.
The battle for the media empire was an inspiration for hit drama Succession, with Lachlan reportedly even accusing his older brother James of leaking stories about the family to the show’s writers. James, once viewed as the heir apparent, was reportedly ‘iced out’ of the Murdoch family reunion on the Amalfi Coast over the summer.
Rupert Murdoch (pictured in London in June) will be taking on a new role of Chairman Emeritus, with his son Lachlan becoming the sole chairman of both of Fox and News Corp
Rupert Murdoch’s message to colleagues where he announced his departure as chairman
Lachlan Murdoch,right, and Rupert Murdoch attend a conference in 2017. Lachlan is taking the chairman roles at News Corp and Fox from November
Today it was confirmed as Lachlan, who has paid tribute to his father’s legacy.
In a statement he said: ‘On behalf of the FOX and News Corp boards of directors, leadership teams, and all the shareholders who have benefited from his hard work, I congratulate my father on his remarkable 70-year career.
The media empire being taken over by Lachlan Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch’s son, Lachlan Murdoch, will become the sole chairman of News Corp and continue as the chair and CEO of Fox.
There are some of the companies and publications he will run from November.
- Fox Corporation including Fox News
- New York Post
- The Wall Street Journal
- The Sun
- The Times
- The Sunday Times
- The Australian
- The Daily Telegraph
- The Courier-Mail
- Herald Sun
- Australian Associated Press
‘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.
‘We are grateful that he will serve as Chairman Emeritus and know he will continue to provide valued counsel to both companies’.
A spokesman confirmed that Lachlan’s new role will start at the end of the Autumn.
The media mogul got into the newspaper business in the 1950s, and became a major Hollywood executive in 1985 when he purchased Twentieth Century Fox from oilman Marvin Davis for $600million.
In a memo to employees, Murdoch wrote: ‘For my entire professional life, I have been engaged daily with news and ideas, and that will not change.
‘But the time is right for me to take on different roles, knowing that we have truly talented teams.’
Mr Murdoch launched his media career in 1954 by taking control of Australian publisher News Limited, which was previously run by his father Sir Keith Murdoch.
The group rapidly expanded internationally, which included a deal to buy the News of the World, which was closed after the phone hacking scandal, and The Sun newspapers in the UK in 1969.
In 1986, he launched the Fox Broadcasting company in the US and started the Fox News station ten years later. It is now the most popular news network in the US.
While Murdoch never ran for political office, politicians in the United States and Britain anxiously sought his approval, viewing it as a passage to power.
He also owned 21st Century Fox, which was sold to Disney for $71.3 billion in 2017. Sky, once the jewel in his crown, was sold to Comcast.
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch poses for a photograph with his sons Lachlan and James. He has six children and has been married
Modern family: Rupert Murdoch on his wedding day with ex-wife Jerry Hall. (back row, left to right), Georgia May Jagger, Lachlan Murdoch, Prudence Murdoch, James Jagger, Gabriel Jagger, Elizabeth Murdoch, James Murdoch and Lizzie Jagger. Murdoch and Jerry Hall are seated in the middle of the picture with his daughters Chloe (left) and Grace (right) in the front row
The heirs: Lachlan, James and Elisabeth grew up in New York (above in 1989 with Murdoch and second wife Anna)
Fox News Channel has profoundly influenced television and the nation’s politics since its start in 1996, making Murdoch a hero to some and pariah to others. The 24-hour network converted the power and energy of political talk radio to television. Within six years, it outrated CNN and MSNBC.
But it has been a rough year for Fox, which was forced to pay $787 million to settle a defamation lawsuit related to its coverage of false claims following the 2020 presidential election. Shortly after, Fox fired its most popular personality, Tucker Carlson.
And in recent years Mr Murdoch began selling off chunks of his empire. It all started with two small Australian newspapers and he then built a media empire that spanned the globe.
In the UK alone he poured millions of pounds into his newspapers – The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun and the News of the World – and his Sky satellite television network.
Mr Murdoch twice transformed Britain’s media landscape, first by breaking the dominance of the print unions in the mid-1980s and then by developing hugely successful multi-channel pay TV.
But his influence stretched far wider, taking in leading American papers and television stations, Star TV in Asia, and the MySpace website.
His acquisition of the prestigious Wall Street Journal in 2007 was hailed as a major coup in the face of opposition from significant sections of the US media establishment.
And the tycoon’s announcement in 2009 that his newspapers would go against the consensus and start charging people to read them online was regarded by some as a bold move that could save quality journalism from extinction.
Ink flowed through Keith Rupert Murdoch’s veins from an early age.
He was born in Melbourne, Australia, on March 11 1931 to leading Australian newspaper proprietor Sir Keith Murdoch.
Mr Murdoch was educated at Geelong Grammar, one of Australia’s most prestigious private schools, and Oxford University’s Worcester College, before working as a reporter and sub-editor on the Daily Express in London.
He returned to Australia when his father died in 1952, leaving him the Adelaide News and Sunday Mail.
The tireless entrepreneur used the two titles as a springboard, building up their circulation and profits so he could buy up other papers, start new ones and move into TV and radio.
By the time he was 33, he had established Australia’s first national newspaper, The Australian, and owned other titles including the Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror in Sydney, the Sunday Truth in Brisbane, the Sunday Times in Perth and the News in Darwin.
He was also chairman of the Southern Television Corporation and owned two radio stations.
Mr Murdoch’s first foray into the competitive British media scene came in 1969 after he was asked to help fight off Robert Maxwell’s bid for control of the UK’s top-selling paper, the News of the World.
This endeavour was successful and Mr Murdoch ended up owning 40% of shares in the Sunday tabloid. He soon bought up another 11% to become the controlling shareholder.
Later that year the Australian magnate bought The Sun, which was then dying on its feet, for the giveaway price of £250,000.
With his acute commercial acumen, and generous dollops of humour, sex and sport, Mr Murdoch transformed the ailing paper into one of the most popular and profitable tabloids in history.
Mr Murdoch acquired a slice of the British establishment when he bought The Times and The Sunday Times in 1981. He added the now-defunct Today newspaper to his growing empire in 1987.
One of his most adventurous gambles was to move production of his London newspapers from their long-standing home in Fleet Street to Wapping in the East End.
Mr Murdoch negotiated with the print unions for some six years without success before staging an astonishing secret moonlight flit to the new plant at Wapping in January 1986.
His action provoked violent industrial action for a year and led to a Labour Party boycott of his papers.
Some of his journalists refused to work at ‘Fortress’ Wapping, so named because it was surrounded by barbed wire and security cameras.
For months, the remaining employees had to be bussed in and out of the plant in vehicles with blackened windows as union pickets hurled abuse at them.
Mr Murdoch eventually won the fight, bringing up-to-date computer technology into the British newspaper industry and paving the way for the launch of The Independent in 1986.
In 1989 the entrepreneur launched Sky satellite TV, then offering just four channels, which merged with the rival British Satellite Broadcasting the next year to form BSkyB.
BSkyB proved a huge success, expanding to offer hundreds of channels and making large profits from subscribers drawn by popular offerings such as exclusive live Premier League football matches.
Mr Murdoch first entered the US media market in 1973 with the purchase of two papers in San Antonio, Texas.
His American ventures went on to include a new weekly tabloid, the National Star, as well as the New York Post, the Chicago Sun-Times, Village Voice and New York magazine.
Having taken US citizenship in 1985 to comply with the country’s media ownership laws, he built Fox TV into one of America’s major broadcast networks.
His media interests spread beyond the English-speaking world, growing to include Sky Italia, Sky Deutschland and Asia’s Star TV.
Mr Murdoch was a hands-on proprietor, frequently telling his editors how their papers should be organised and laid out.
He admitted to a British parliamentary inquiry in 2007 that he exercised editorial control at The Sun and the News of the World over ‘major issues’ – such as who to back in a general election and policy on Europe – but insisted he never interfered with the lines taken by The Times and The Sunday Times.
Mr Murdoch also became famed for his plain-speaking defence of the way he ran his businesses.
When he was accused of lowering newspaper standards, he said he was reviving the newspaper-reading habit among millions of working-class people who had abandoned papers for TV.
Celebrities, royals and politicians had claimed to be victims of newspaper phone-hacking and led to Mr Murdoch closing down the 168-year-old News of the World in July 2011.
Mr Murdoch admitted that mistakes were made over the scandal as he appeared before MPs on the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee.
In 2023, it was Mr Murdoch’s US interests which came under the spotlight with a defamation claim brought by the voting machine company Dominion against Fox News over on-air allegations that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen from Donald Trump.
Mr Murdoch, who had, according to court papers, described the claims as ‘really crazy’, was spared having to give evidence in court after Fox agreed to pay Dominion 787.5 million dollars in a last-ditch settlement.
Mr Murdoch has been married four times and has four daughters and two sons.
His first marriage gave him his first child, Prue, before ending in divorce in 1966.
Mr Murdoch’s three children with his second wife – Elisabeth, Lachlan and James – were dispatched to various outposts of his corporate empire.
It was widely assumed that one of them would succeed him and there was endless speculation inside and outside his News Corporation holding company about who was the favourite at any one time.
Jesse Armstrong, the creator of hit TV series Succession, confirmed that the original script was based on Mr Murdoch, following many years of speculation by fans and media.
Scottish actor Brian Cox played foul-mouthed global media tycoon and family patriarch Logan Roy, whose children were vying for control of their father’s company.
Unlike the TV show which saw none of the children succeed, the real-life Murdoch drama has Lachlan winning through to take the top job.
But his other children could challenge Lachlan’s power in the event of the media mogul’s death. Murdoch controls News Corp and Fox Corp through a Reno, Nevada-based family trust that holds a roughly a 40% 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 out-vote a third, potentially setting up a battle over the future of the companies, even as Lachlan Murdoch now oversees Fox Corp. and News Corp.
Fox and News Corp have a dual-share system, with non-voting Class A shares and voting Class B shares. The shares in Fox and News Corp owned by Murdoch’s children through the trust are a combination of both classes of shares.
The rise of the Murdoch empire
Mr Murdoch in London after he purchased The Times in 1981
Here is a timeline showing the mogul’s major acquisitions to date.
1968: Mr Murdoch buys Britain’s News Of The World newspaper, building on his family’s media empire in Australia.
1969: The media mogul takes control of British tabloid the Sun.
1976: He purchases US tabloid the New York Post. It marks his second foray into the US market, having bought the San Antonio Express-News three years earlier.
1981: Mr Murdoch snaps up the owner of the Times and Sunday Times.
1985: He takes over the film unit of 20th Century Fox and a handful of local TV stations that will later become the Fox network.
1987: He buys US publisher Harper & Row, which is merged with his newly-purchased Williams Collins a few years later, becoming Harper Collins.
1989: Mr Murdoch launches Sky Television. One year later it is merged with TV company British Satellite Broadcasting (BSB) to become BSkyB.
1996: He launches the American Fox News Channel, which becomes a major US cable network.
2005: The media mogul makes his first major foray into web-based media, buying social networking site Myspace, which struggles after Facebook gains dominance. It is sold by 2011. He later calls the purchase a ‘huge mistake’.
2007: Mr Murdoch acquires financial news organisation the Wall Street Journal.
2011: His media empire is hit with a major scandal after it was revealed that journalists at the News Of The World ordered the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler to be hacked. It later emerged that thousands of others were targeted by phone-hacking. The news led to the closure of the newspaper.
2011: News Corporation makes an offer to acquire BSkyB, but is forced to abandon its plans after becoming embroiled in the phone-hacking scandal.
January 2016: Son James Murdoch becomes chairman of Sky, having last held the role between 2003 and 2007. He had resigned following the phone-hacking scandal involving the Murdoch-owned News Of The World. The return of James Murdoch raises questions as to whether 21st Century Fox would mount a fresh takeover bid for Sky.
December 2016: 21st Century Fox tables a formal £11.7 billion takeover bid for broadcaster Sky, offering to buy the 61% of the business it does not already own.
December 2017: Walt Disney launches a separate 52.4 billion (£39 billion) takeover of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets, which would include its stake in Sky.
January 2018: 21st Century Fox’s bid for Sky is provisionally blocked by the Competition and Markets Authority watchdog due to fears that it would hand the Murdochs too much control over UK media.
February 2018: Comcast makes a £22.1billion offer for Sky to rival the Murdoch bid, throwing his acquisition into doubt.