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The battle of the Murdoch brothers: How James’ shock resignation hands victory to Lachlan

James Murdoch’s resignation from the family firm represents a victory for his older brother in the epic power struggle between the two siblings and their Succession-style battle to succeed their father.

His decision to ditch News Corp – citing ‘disagreements over certain editorial content published by the company’s news outlets’ – sent shockwaves through the media world.

But the 47-year-old’s relationship with father Rupert had long been cold before yesterday’s shock announcement, according to Jamie Roberts, who made the BBC documentary The Rise of the Murdoch Dynasty.

The London-based director and producer today claimed James ‘seems to have been distancing himself from the family business for about three years now’.

The move has paved the way for his older brother Lachlan, 48, to take over the multi-billion dollar family empire when Rupert, 89, dies.

James’s (right) resignation has paved the way for his older brother Lachlan (left), 48, to take over the family empire when Rupert (centre), 89, dies

Rupert is pictured with his second wife Anna and his sons James and Lachlan when they were younger

Rupert is pictured with his second wife Anna and his sons James and Lachlan when they were younger

The London-based director and producer Mr Roberts (pictured) added James 'seems to have been distancing himself from the family business for about three years now'

The London-based director and producer Mr Roberts (pictured) added James ‘seems to have been distancing himself from the family business for about three years now’

Mr Roberts told the Today programme: ‘From what I know I think the relationship has been cold for some time and he’s publicly spoken out against some of his father’s core businesses and that – from what we have learnt – is a big no no.

‘Liz Murdoch did that around the time of the phone hacking scandal and she was criticised by her father for doing that.

‘And so him doing this is a very kind of front footed statement from James about who he is now and the fact he is his own man.’

James had been on the board of directors for News Corp since 2013 and was the CEO of 21st Century Fox until last year.

James, 47, quit the News Corp board yesterday, citing 'disagreements over certain editorial content published by the company's news outlets'

James, 47, quit the News Corp board yesterday, citing ‘disagreements over certain editorial content published by the company’s news outlets’

In a statement last night, he said: ‘My resignation is due to disagreements over certain editorial content published by the Company’s news outlets and certain other strategic decisions.’

Mr Roberts said Lachlan was already the preferred candidate to take over Rupert’s empire when he dies, citing sources he spoke to in his three-part series.

He said James’s statement was ‘just publicly underlining it’ and added the youngest son has been investing in left-leaning media outlets that mirror his father’s.

The Rise of the Murdoch Dynasty presented a world where Rupert would play his children off against each other to see who was most capable of taking over his firm.

Even when they were children Rupert was grooming them to take over the business one day and keep them in competition with each other.

In one account, the media mogul had them eating breakfast at their home on Fifth Avenue, New York, while he lectured them on how the morning’s newspapers were laid out, including how many ad pages there were and which articles were selected and placed where.

Elisabeth was seen as the ‘natural favourite’, Lachlan was described as ‘charming’, while James was ‘the brains’ of the family.

Their lives were also mimicked in the HBO series Succession, which follows the Roys who argue over the inheritance of ageing father Logan’s entertainment empire.

Lachlan and James have looked the favourites to continue the dynasty since eldest daughter Elisabeth started funding her own ventures in the 2000s.

But James appeared to fall out of favour in the early 2010s when he was executive chairman of News International – the owners of the News of the World.

On his watch – between 2007 and 2012 – reporters from the newspaper hacked the phones of celebrities, politicians and murder victims.

Amid a huge public outcry, he was forced to shut the newspaper in 2011 and he also resigned as chairman of BSkyB, now Sky UK Limited.

Both James and his father appeared in front of the Leveson Inquiry, which Rupert described as ‘the most humble day of my life’.

Both James (pictured) and his father appeared in front of the Leveson Inquiry, which Rupert described as 'the most humble day of my life'

Both James (pictured) and his father appeared in front of the Leveson Inquiry, which Rupert described as ‘the most humble day of my life’

Soon after, in 2014, Lachlan returned to the family fold after running a number of other businesses.

He was made non-executive co-chairman of News Corp and 21st Century Fox by his father, which seemed to set him up as taking over the empire.

The 48-year-old became Executive Chairman of 21st Century Fox in 2015 and was named as the Chairman and CEO of the Fox Corporation in March 2019.

Lachlan also became the CEO of Fox News in a reshuffle which put James out of the day-to-day running of the family business in 2018.

James was also handed more responsibility, despite his failings in London, and was made CEO of 21st Century Fox in 2015 and a year later became chair of Sky.

But these were short-lived, as he had to leave Sky in 2018 when Comcast took majority control and left 21st Century Fox when Walt Disney Company took over last year.

While being squeezed out of power in recent years, James has not been afraid to criticise the family firm.

He is known as the more liberal Murdoch brother, while Lachlan’s views seem to be more aligned with those of his conservative father.

James wanted the company to be a globalised news and entertainment brand, whereas Lachlan was pushing for a nationalist and profitable political machine.

The younger brother and his wife Kathryn slammed the family business for promoting climate change ‘denials’ during the Australian bushfire crisis in January.

The pair released a statement saying they were ‘disappointed’ by the coverage of the fires by Fox News and other News Corp outlets.

‘Kathryn and James’s views on climate are well established and their frustration with some of the News Corp and Fox coverage of the topic is also well known.

‘They are particularly disappointed with the ongoing denial among the news outlets in Australia given obvious evidence to the contrary,’ their statement read.

Lachlan became the CEO of Fox News in a reshuffle which put James out of the day-to-day running of the family business in 2018

Lachlan became the CEO of Fox News in a reshuffle which put James out of the day-to-day running of the family business in 2018

James (right) was also handed more responsibility, despite his failings in London, and was made CEO of 21st Century Fox in 2015 and a year later became chair of Sky

James (right) was also handed more responsibility, despite his failings in London, and was made CEO of 21st Century Fox in 2015 and a year later became chair of Sky

The ‘denials’ were in reference to allegations arsonists and not climate change were to blame for the destructive wildfires.

His comments were perceived as ‘unprecedented’ and sparked speculation of a feud within the family since he rarely speaks publicly about his role in the business.

And in a revealing interview with the New Yorker last year, James admitted he went ‘periods of time’ without talking to his father.

Meanwhile Lachlan, who is seen to share similar views to his father, has recently remained loyal and not hit out at the family business.

Their relationship has run hot and cold over the years, but it was believed to have been cemented from 2014 when he returned to New York to work for News Corp.

James’s announcement yesterday appears to have quashed any expectation he will take over his father’s empire, especially due to the attack on the family’s media outlets in his statement.

The two successors to the Murdoch throne:

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch, 89, currently married to Jerry Hall, has six children by three different women, with their ages ranging from 62 (his eldest daughter Prudence Murdoch by first wife, Patricia Booker) down to 17 (Chloe, Murdoch’s youngest child with ex-wife Wendi Deng). 

However, the obvious successors to his media throne – or at the least the ones who have made the biggest play for it so far – are his middle-born children, Lachlan, 48, and James, 47, with many predicting that Lachlan is the ‘golden child’ who eventually head up the entire global business.  

Will one of the middle three succeed Rupert? The new BBC documentary explores how 'natural favourite' Elisabeth, 'charming' Lachlan and 'the brains' of the family James all vied for their position in their father's dynasty. Pictured from left: James,  Lachlan, their mother Ann, Elisabeth, and Rupert Murdooch

Will one of the middle three succeed Rupert? The new BBC documentary explores how ‘natural favourite’ Elisabeth, ‘charming’ Lachlan and ‘the brains’ of the family James all vied for their position in their father’s dynasty. Pictured from left: James,  Lachlan, their mother Ann, Elisabeth, and Rupert Murdooch

LACHLAN MURDOCH

Hey Dad! Dubbed by many as the 'golden child', Lachlan Murdoch looks increasingly likely to inherit Murdoch's empire. The father-of-three holds major positions in the Murdoch conglomerate including  being co-chairman of News Corp and CEO of the Fox Corporation

Hey Dad! Dubbed by many as the ‘golden child’, Lachlan Murdoch looks increasingly likely to inherit Murdoch’s empire. The father-of-three holds major positions in the Murdoch conglomerate including  being co-chairman of News Corp and CEO of the Fox Corporation

The middle child, 48, in the three siblings, Lachlan has been dubbed ‘charming’  and was even called ‘the Prince’. In his twenties, he was appointed Deputy CEO of News Limited, one of Australia’s largest media conglomerates. 

Lachlan became the CEO of Fox News in a reshuffle which put James on the outs of the day-to-day running of the family business in 2018.  

The relationship between Lachlan and his father has run hot and cold over the years, but that changed in 2014 when Murdoch’s older son returned to New York to work for News Corp. Now, he is the Chairman and CEO of the Fox Corporation.

JAMES  MURDOCH

A different path: despite being hugely loyal to his father, Rupert's youngest son is now largely out of the picture, running investment company Lupa Systems with his wife Kathryn

A different path: despite being hugely loyal to his father, Rupert’s youngest son is now largely out of the picture, running investment company Lupa Systems with his wife Kathryn 

Youngest son James, 47, started his media career running rap label Rawkus Records, a dominant label in the underground hip-hop scene established by pals Brian Brater and Jarret Myer, with his father’s financial backing.

However, he was soon back in the fold and the youngest of the three siblings has arguably been the most loyal, staying by his father’s side for decades after joining News Corp shortly after he dropped out of Harvard.

Since his brother became CEO of Fox News in 2018 in a major reshuffle, James has worked at the helm of the investment fund Lupa Systems but retains a seat on the board of News Corp. Leaving Fox wasn’t an entirely bad move though, he became $2 billion richer thanks to his shares in the company.

In recent years, the father-of-three, married to climate activist wife Kathryn, has been increasingly vocal against Fox News and other News Corporation outlets including of coverage by the organisation on the Australian forest fires in 2019.

He was even last year reportedly looking to set up a $1billion new project including a liberal news outlet, in stark contrast to his father’s Fox News.

In March it was further suggested he pumped money into start-ups looking to combat fake news.

His firm Lupa Systems was said to have teamed up with Betaworks to create a ‘more sustainable news ecosystem’.

Rupert designed his companies to benefit his family, making certain he and his children always had control.

The tycoon was able to show that plan in action last year, when the sale of Fox’s film and television assets to Disney saw his six children pocket about $2billion.

But Rupert has remained coy over who will take over his business interests when he retires, refusing to name an heir despite making no secret of his preferred child.

It is not his oldest child Prudence or the next in line Elisabeth, who has found incredible success outside the family business in emerging media markets.

It is not James, the son who had stood by his side for decades and weathered the fallout from the hacking scandal and the 2016 sexual assault scandal at Fox News, which saw Roger Ailes ousted.

But it is Lachlan, Murdoch’s older son, who is the ‘golden child’ according to multiple sources.

And the empire looks to be his for the taking – but it is not clear if he is interested in the job.

The family company and its future were the focus of a New York Times piece last year that provided an in depth look at the mogul’s two sons while completely ignoring the lives and accomplishments of his four daughters.

By some accounts, Rupert’s heirs were still battling behind the scenes for control of the empire, with the two top contenders still James and Lachlan until the former called it a day yesterday.

The brothers have had a tumultuous relationship over the years which had become more frayed than ever of recent after Lachlan was promoted over his younger brother by their father, despite James’s previous loyalty to the family firm.

Others claim most of the children have soured on the notion of taking over from their father.

The media mogul is a father of six, who range in age from 61 to 16. The oldest is Prudence, who is Murdoch’s only child with his first wife, Australian model Patricia Booker.

She has held various positions in her father’s companies but now lives in Australia where she is largely focused on raising her three children.

Prue, as she is called by her family, has made it clear she is not interested in taking the reins and did not even attend college after graduating from Dalton in New York.

That does not mean she would oppose seeing her second husband, Alasdair MacLeod, move up the ranks at News Corp – despite her protests about him working with her father, or her offspring – who are Murdoch’s three oldest grandchildren – landing nice roles at the company.

But as Vanity Fair reported back in 2008, Prue is in many ways the one link the family has to reality.

‘She gets away with saying what the others won’t, even things that the others won’t think, and she takes the various family members much less seriously than they do themselves,’ reported the magazine.

‘This involves, not least of all, seeing her three oldest half-siblings – Elisabeth, Lachlan, and James – as, each in his or her way, master-race prototypes.’

It is those three who had long seemed poised to battle it out for their father’s media empire – Elisabeth, 50, Lachlan and James.

All three work in media, with Elisabeth currently experiencing success with Vertical Networks, a startup that provides app-based series that are produced to be viewed in cellular devices.

The relationship between Lachlan and his father has run hot and cold over the years, but that changed in 2014 when Murdoch’s older son returned to New York to work for News Corp. Now, he is the Chairman and CEO of the Fox Corporation.

James, the youngest of the three, had been the most loyal, staying by his father’s side and joining News Corp shortly after he dropped out of Harvard.

That devotion was tested however when Murdoch elected to promote Lachlan over James after he return to work in the US following an extended stint in Australia.

The brothers already strained relationship only got worse when Lachlan informed James of this decision over lunch.

James even briefly quit the company, but then decided to return before then exiting for good.

Murdoch’s youngest children are Grace, 18, and Chloe, 16, the New York-based daughters born to Murdoch’s third wife Wendi Deng.

Chloe is currently attending an Ivy League college while her sister attends private school in Manhattan.

The ambitions of the two teenagers are unknown, but their fiercely intelligent mother has no doubt seen to it the two get no less than their older half-siblings.

The documentary claims the media mogul has often described Elisabeth as being most similar to him. But it is Lachlan who is favourite to take over the family empire

The documentary claims the media mogul has often described Elisabeth as being most similar to him. But it is Lachlan who is favourite to take over the family empire

James is a longtime environmental advocate. His wife Kathryn works at the Clinton Climate Initiative and the pair are known contributors to the Clinton Foundation.

The couple last month endorsed presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden by donating $615,000 each to his campaign after previously donating to former candidate Pete Buttigieg.

Rupert and Lachlan said in a statement on James leaving News Corp: ‘We’re grateful to James for his many years of service to the company.’

The short statement added: ‘We wish him the very best in his future endeavors.’

News Corp is one of the two major media conglomerates owned by the Murdochs, the other being Fox Corporation, which was established after The Walt Disney Company acquired the majority of 21st Century Fox last year.

The two sister companies were formed following the split of the original News Corporation, founded in 1980, in 2013.

James previously served as the CEO of 21st Century Fox but stepped down following the sale. Since then, he has worked at the helm of the investment fund Lupa Systems.

News Corp also publishes major papers in Australia and the UK and owns the HarperCollins book publisher.

How similar is HBO’s Succession to the lives of the Murdoch family?

It doesn’t take a sleuth to work out there are some clear parallels between the character of entrepreneurial Scot Logan Roy (Brian Cox) in Succession and Rupert Murdoch. 

For a start, both the fictional and real-life media moguls have a penchant for getting spliced, and then divorced. 

While Logan has had three wives, Murdoch has been married four times, including to his latest wife Jerry Hall, whom he wed four years ago. 

Rupert, is that you? Logan Roy (Brian Cox) plays a Scottish media mogul whose four children are warring over his empire in hit HBO series Succession

Rupert, is that you? Logan Roy (Brian Cox) plays a Scottish media mogul whose four children are warring over his empire in hit HBO series Succession

Murdoch has six children: Prudence, 62, Elisabeth, 51, Lachlan, 48, and James, 47, plus Grace and Chloe, daughters from his marriage to Wendi Deng, who are 19 and 17 respectively.

Meanwhile, Roy has a brood of four kids – Connor, Kendall, Shiv and Roman.  

Perhaps the biggest potential steal when it comes to Succession’s plot is that Roy is preparing to hand over his huge media company to just one offspring, a son.

Currently Lachlan Murdoch is co-chairman of News Corp and CEO of the Fox Corporation while his younger brother James and older sister Elisabeth now both operate their own private ventures away from the family firm. 

Succession’s creator Jesse Armstrong has been opaque about the show’s purported inspiration though, telling Variety magazine: ‘There are loads of succession stories to draw on. 

‘We wanted to draw on all the good, rich stories there are about succession and about media and high politics.’

While Succession creator Jesse Armstrong has said there is no explicit inspiration for the hit show's plot, he did namecheck the Murdochs last year in a New York Times interview

Armstrong said: 'The amazing thing about this stuff is that it’s everywhere. Sumner Redstone’s family. The Mercers. The Murdochs. Conrad Black'.

While Succession creator Jesse Armstrong has said there is no explicit inspiration for the hit show’s plot, he did namecheck them, telling the New York Times last year: ‘The amazing thing about this stuff is that it’s everywhere. Sumner Redstone’s family. The Mercers. The Murdochs. Conrad Black’.

Rupert and current wife, former Texan model Jerry Hall. His marriage to Hall in 2016 was the fourth time the media titan has said 'I do'. The character of Logan Roy in Succession has been married three times

Rupert and current wife, former Texan model Jerry Hall. His marriage to Hall in 2016 was the fourth time the media titan has said ‘I do’. The character of Logan Roy in Succession has been married three times

Armstrong did later namecheck the Murdochs though in a New York Times interview, saying: ‘The amazing thing about this stuff is that it’s everywhere. Sumner Redstone’s family. The Mercers. The Murdochs. Conrad Black. 

‘Sometimes people have said, ‘It’s really about these people, isn’t it? It’s based on them’. And: No. We read widely and we do take elements of stuff.

‘Hopefully, if you’re writing in the right area, you end up hitting reality.’ 

SUCCESSION: HOW THE FIRST SEASON PLAYED OUT 

The first season of the HBO series opens with Roy, preparing to retire from his media empire Waystar Roco, with his son Kendall expected to be named successor. 

However, the clan is left reeling when Logan announces he’s going to stay on because he doesn’t feel Kendall is ready for the responsibility due to his past battles with drugs, even though he’s now sober.

Hours after the shock announcement, Logan suffers a brain aneurysm and is rushed to hospital and while he’s in a coma, Kendall takes over. Logan recovers and when he takes the reins again, he starts promoting anyone but Kendall to important positions.

His son Roman becomes head of studio, and Tom – the fiancé of his daughter Siobhan – is made head of parks.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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