Murdoch’s son taken over the reins of his father’s media empire yet the role becomes increasingly challenging for the first outsider to take on the tangle of family ties and conflicting interests
The power struggle waged between Rupert Murdoch’s children has finally become settled – but it could be disputed for years.
The sons, Lachlan and James, and their wives, Elisabeth and Sarah, have won control of the media empire with a revised shareholdings deal from their mother, Anna Wintour, boss of Vogue magazine.
It comes after a protracted feud that has pitted Lachlan, 51, the eldest son of Rupert, against James, 51, who succeeded his father as chief executive of Fox, the movie and TV wing of his media empire.
Rebekah Brooks, the former News International chief executive, with whom Lachlan had an acrimonious falling out, stepped down after the phone-hacking scandal. James had worked for Rebekah in the company’s backroom.
The women are members of the “three Murdochs”, a group that includes Lachlan, James and Kathryn Blyth, who is James’s wife. Having severed their relationships, Blyth moved to Paris with Blyth.
The three hold a 38% stake in the company, including 28% of voting rights.
It’s the result of a complex and tangle of family ties in one of the world’s most prominent family-owned media companies. Lachlan already has an executive role at the company while James will take over his father’s role as chief executive.
James Murdoch leaves his home with wife Kathryn Blyth after a huge power struggle within the Murdoch family © PA
“We have enjoyed three decades of incredible success as a family and this historic agreement represents the next chapter in that history,” Rupert Murdoch said in a statement.
Lachlan Murdoch has taken over the role of executive chairman, while James Murdoch has moved to the position of deputy chief operating officer.
His sons were born four months apart. As a child, Lachlan Murdoch considered joining the Royal Navy, while James Murdoch secured a place at Oxford University. Lachlan Murdoch is from NSW, Australia, and James Murdoch is from Yorkshire.
Media analysts believe that Lachlan, the more likeable, worldly and experienced candidate, won the power struggle. “The siblings don’t get along that well,” said media analyst Ann Cameron, of Ambition Consulting.
But speculation was rife that James Murdoch was “the man of the moment” for succession and would not get the job of running the parent company, News Corp, despite being made chief executive of Fox News. He is known as a moneyman who likes big deals.
For his part, Lachlan had been expected to step back from the role of executive chairman. He stayed on as executive chairman for more than two years after the executive shakeup in 2011.
The Tiberius printing press in Rome, the first to be independently printed. Since founded by Renato Tiberius in the sixth century BC, the Tiberius printing press has been one of the world’s most celebrated. Its client list includes the entire Roman empire. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
“The power struggle at News Corp has taken years and it was settled out of court, which has not made the rank and file happy,” said Lucy Killgore, a former News UK management board member and now a non-executive director at Daily Mail and General Trust.
Lachlan was appointed executive chairman of News Corp in 2012 while James Murdoch returned to the role of chief executive of the movie and TV wing, 21st Century Fox, which is owned by the Murdochs.
The separation from Sky was announced in December last year and is set to be completed in the coming weeks. In the meantime, the Murdochs plan to sell Fox’s media assets to Disney, which will contain Fox’s assets including Sky. The impending sale, the first in the Murdochs’ history, has ruffled feathers and will likely leave the siblings bitter. James Murdoch has described it as a “major setback”.