It has been 24 years since Lachlan Murdoch admitted to the Financial Times that he finds the constant speculation about who will follow in his father’s footsteps a “pain in the ass”. Even then, though, he admits it’s “a fascinating story”.
At the age of 91, Rupert Murdoch recently divorced and is expressing next transaction, will reunite News Corp and Fox after nearly a decade apart. When his American newspaper turn their support From Donald Trump to Ron DeSantis after the recent midterm elections, most observers assume that the older Murdoch instinctively directed them to do so.
But Rupert has backed out and Lachlan, as the only of his six children to have an executive role, now seems in the best position to run the family empire – if he would like.
There are larger media conglomerates, and Murdoch’s industry is currently dwarfed by giant tech platforms. But Rupert has used his fortune to exert unparalleled political influence on three continents, so the question of who will inherit that power — and what they can do with it — remains unanswered. subject.
Despite decades of scrutiny, the family tensions that inspired HBO heavy addiction TV series heir, Lachlan is little known outside of Australia. So Paddy Manning’s unauthorized biography successor well-timed as it has a confusing title.
It’s packed with TV-worthy details of $175 million yachts, Ducati motorcycles, and “James Bond-like” elevators to the $300,000 Porsche Panamera garage. . The spillover action from a $25 million Sydney mansion to a ski lodge in Aspen to the 11-bedroom Los Angeles estate is seen in the credits of Beverly Hillbilliesa hit at $150 million.
Lachlan might get angry when he covered newspapers he didn’t own, but he provided plenty of fodder for their gossip columnists, hosting lavish parties for friends like religion. film actor Baz Luhrmann and rival media heiress James Packer.
“At work, he was a ruthless five-star general in the culture wars,” Manning said. “At home, or on one of his many wonderful holidays, he is a laid-back Australian and runs all-round: spectacularly rich, impeccably stylish, handsome, outgoing , adventurous, knowledgeable and fun.”
successor portrays Lachlan, 51, as a fiercely protective son and a competitive older brother, a conflicting heiress who is ultimately now in power. But it does give the reader a little insight into the intentions of a man who will become the most important media owner in Australia, the UK and the US.
Manning, an Australian journalist who used to work for Murdoch-owned The Australian newspaper, didn’t convince Lachlan to sit for an interview. Many of the other people he approached, he said, were afraid to talk to, not even to be recorded.
As a result, his account of key moments, from the UK phone hacking scandal to the demise of Fox News founder Roger Ailes, relies heavily on prior reporting. Among the 60 people who spoke were loyal News Corp employees like Col Allan, a former New York Post editor who accused of harassment this early year. (News Corp dismissed the accusations as futile; Manning did not mention them.)
Such allies add color, but Manning also allows them to soften Lachlan’s image, making him a serious believer of free speech who shouldn’t be held accountable for the controversies that have already arisen. making Murdoch’s properties a frequent target of defamation and litigation.
The author makes a convincing case that the young billionaire’s political views have shifted to be true to those of his opportunistic father, but also makes it clear that he has no interest in conspiracies. political like Rupert. “Lachlan’s agenda is simple: it’s not about the right or the left; Republican or Democrat; gender, race or class; war or peace,” he concluded: “It’s just business.”
7 billion dollars
Amount spent on media acquisitions under Lachlan Murdoch since 2019
There is some support for this argument. Lachlan has spent at least 7 billion dollars on acquisitions since 2019, but none of the election-affecting media properties. His sports betting, streaming, and blockchain deals have little to do with the news.
Such diversification might seem surprising to a kid who showed more interest in the press than his siblings, spending the summer doing reporting and cleaning printers. Rupert made him general manager of Brisbane’s Courier-Mail when he was 22 and publisher of The Australian at 23.
Those years solidified Lachlan’s love for Australia, to which he returned in 2005 after leaving in frustration over a previous tryout for the News Corp top job. Non-Australian readers may have a hard time with Manning’s retelling of the details of Super League wars and the fall of One.Tel, but his report offers a reminder of the record. Lachlan’s mix: a $10 million stake in Realestate.com.au turned into billions of dollars of digital growth stories while the Channel Ten television network fall into the government.
Lachlan’s reputation is now more likely to depend on the decisions he makes in the US, especially for Fox News and its far-right opinion hosts. Tucker Carlson remains “one of Lachlan’s personal favorites,” says Manning, even as the rating-winning fire brand is accused of promoting a racist “alternative theory” and inciting conspiracy theories about the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.
“Falling at fault” and instinctively hostile to criticism, Lachlan could have stopped Fox News from amplifying Trump’s false claims about election fraud with a single call to the Director. the firm’s executives, Manning pointed out. Instead, his company is facing defamation lawsuits from two voting tech companies, Dominion Voting System and smartare looking for at least $2.7 billion and $1.6 billion respectively.
A costly loss in such a lawsuit could change the inheritance equation. We now know that upon Rupert’s death, control of Fox and News Corp will pass to his four oldest children, with equal shares in the family trust.
In a strangely unoriginal passage, Manning brings up the idea that siblings Prudence, Elisabeth and James shunned could join forces to run the company “in a way that strengthens democracies around the world instead of undermining them.”
One analyst, who asked not to be named, went even further, telling the author that it would be “fair to assume that Lachlan was fired on the day Rupert died.”
In other words, if we’ve learned anything from decades of following the most compelling succession story in the media, it’s that you can never rule out the possibility of a situation. other details.
successor: The Risky Life of Lachlan Murdoch by Paddy Manning, Sutherland House Book $28.95, 344 pages
Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson is the US business editor of the FT
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