Rupert Murdoch Has Appointed His Son Lachlan Heir-Apparent To His Empire

Lachlan Murdoch in Sydney in 2005. Getty / Ian Waldie

Rupert Murdoch has appointed his son Lachlan co-chairman of his two major companies, News Corporation and 21st Century Fox, in a move that gives clarity to the succession plan for one of the world’s largest media ventures.

It’s a dramatic development for the company which started as a newspaper business run out of Adelaide and became one of the world’s largest media forces, wielding huge influence and reaching a billion people worldwide each year.

The appointment of Lachlan, 42, as a non-executive co-chair of both companies is a fascinating reconciliation within the Murdoch family business structure.

Lachlan has been a non-executive director of News Corp but left the company management in 2005, years before what became its most tumultuous period when the phone-hacking scandal led to Rupert’s decision to close Britain’s largest-selling newspaper, the News of the World.

“This appointment is a sign of confidence in the growth potential of News Corp and a recognition of Lachlan’s entrepreneurial leadership and passion for news, digital media and sport,” Rupert Murdoch said. “In this elevated role, Lachlan will help us lead News Corp forward as we expand our reach and invest in new technologies and markets around the world. We have many challenges and opportunities ahead, and Lachlan’s strategic thinking and vast knowledge of our businesses will enable me as Executive Chairman and the company as a whole to deliver the best outcomes on behalf of our stockholders, employees and customers.”

His brother James, 41, will be co-chief operating officer of 21st Century Fox, the movie and new media company created last year when News Corporation was split in two.

Rupert Murdoch is 83 and for years there have been guessing games within the company about his succession.

(Disclosure: I worked for News Corp for 12 years.)

Since Lachlan left, Rupert’s other son James Murdoch commanded the company’s British operations, where he was highly regarded, an articulate executive, and widely believed to be the heir to the leadership of the company.

While Lachlan had not alienated himself from the family he had distanced himself from the business, setting up his own investment vehicle, Ilyria, after leaving News.

Lachlan is stepping down from his role as non-executive chair of the publicly-listed Network Ten Holdings in Australia.

“I am grateful to the Board of News Corp for this exciting opportunity, and I’m looking forward to working more closely than ever with my father as well as Robert Thomson and his team, who have launched the new News so successfully,” Lachlan said. “News Corp today has the energy and sensibility of a start-up and is at the cutting edge of change in the media, publishing and education industries, and much more.”

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