Rupert Murdoch, the longtime head of News Corp. and Fox, will step down as chairman and take on the role of chairman emeritus, capping a seven-decade career that built a media dynasty ranging from cable television to tabloid newspapers and turned him into one of the world's most influential media executives.
Lachlan Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch's eldest son, will become the sole chair of News Corp. and continue as executive and CEO of Fox Corp, Fox announced Thursday. Rupert Murdoch will take on his new role at the companies' next shareholder meetings, which are scheduled for mid-November.
Rupert Murdoch, 92, exits News Corp. and Fox at a time the media businesses are facing a number of challenges, including the fallout from a bruising trial, andsettlement, over a defamation lawsuit after Fox News aired unfounded claims that Dominion Voting Systems equipment was used to rig the 2020 presidential election.
Murdoch became one of the foremost media executives of the last half century by building an extensive network of tabloids, cable and broadcast TV, and entertainment assets, many known for espousing conservative ideas. He's also one of the world's wealthiest media executives, with a net worth of $8.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Conservative power broker
Murdoch's perch as head of Fox and News Corp. gave him enormous sway in anglophone conservative circles, with outlets such as Fox News credited with boosting the careers and policies of numerous right-leaning politicians.
"He used the outlets in the U.K., Australia and the U.S. to achieve certain types of policy outcomes and particularly certain types of political results, earning favors from politicians whose able trade in for political advantage," David Folkenflik, author of "Murdoch's World: The Last of the Old Media Empires" and NPR's media correspondent, told CBS News.
He added, "Think of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, which he promoted through Fox News, through the New York Post and the Weekly Standard, which gave ballast to [then-President] George Bush."
But Murdoch's support of conservative viewpoints also fed into political outcomes now viewed as "disastrous," such as Brexit in the U.K., Folkenflik added. And in the U.S., Murdoch privately disparaged former President Donald Trump even as some Fox News hosts were promoting his falsehoods about the 2020 presidential election, with the latter leading to Fox News' massive settlement with Dominion.
Murdoch allowed Fox News hosts to promote election conspiracies "in order to try to hold on to Trump's core voters who were many of Fox News' core viewers," Folkenflik said.
"Time is right"
In the statement, Lachlan Murdoch said his father would "continue to provide valued counsel to both companies."
"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," he said.
With Rupert Murdoch stepping back from a leadership role, Lachlan Murdoch's role is solidified as his father's successor, and he will oversee tabloids including the New York Post as well as Fox News and Fox Entertainment.
In a memo shared with CBS News, Murdoch underscored that he is stepping back while he's in good health, but added that the "time is right for me to take on different roles."
"Our companies are in robust health, as am I," he said in the memo.
The media mogul added that Lachlan Murdoch is "absolutely committed to the cause of freedom," while also aiming a potshot at "elites" who have "open contempt for those who are not members of their rarefied class."
Start in newspapers
Murdoch, a native Australian who later became a U.S. citizen, was born into the media business, as his father owned several Australian newspapers.
When Murdoch was studying at Oxford University, his father died, putting his 21-year-old son in charge of The News and The Sunday Times. Murdoch soon boosted the papers' circulation by reorienting their coverage to focus on scandal, sex and crime — a formula he would hone over his decades-long career.
In the 1960s, Murdoch began acquiring other Australian newspapers, eventually controlling two-thirds of that country's newspaper circulation. In the 1970s, he expanded outside the country, taking over the News of the World and The Sun in the U.K. and The San Antonio Express-News, New York Post and Village Voice in the U.S.
In 1985, Murdoch united several TV stations under the umbrella of Fox Corp. and then Fox News, which soon overtook ABC, CBS and NBC in viewership.
Murdoch's personal life was nearly as colorful as the stories in the tabloids he owned, with the family's internal power struggles said to have inspired the hit HBO series "Succession."
Who is Lachlan Murdoch?
The issue of succession at News Corp. and Fox has been a matter of speculation, given that three of Rupert Murdoch's grown children have been involved in the media industry and the family businesses to various extents.
Lachlan Murdoch, 52, currently serves as the executive chair and CEO of Fox Corp., and in previous years served as the publisher of the New York Post and oversaw book publisher HarperCollins. In 2015, Lachlan and his brother James, 50, were appointed to leadership positions within the family's media business, prompting speculation that the pair were competing to succeed their father.
James Murdoch had served as CEO of 21st Century Fox until its sale in 2019 to Disney. In 2020, James Murdochfrom the board of of News Corp, citing disagreements over the company's editorial decisions. He and his wife had publicly rebuked News Corp.'s of Australia's wildfires, which downplayed the role of human-driven climate change.
Meanwhile, their sister Elisabeth Murdoch, 55, struck out on her own to create a production company, Shine, in 2001, which she later sold to News Corp.
Lachlan is "a genial figure but much less ambitious than his father," Folkenflik said. "It's hard to see how the empire can survive in quite the same way."
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