Rupert Murdoch has stepped down as the chairman of Fox Corp and News Corp, ending a more than seven-decade career during which he created a media empire spanning from Australia to the United States.
His son, Lachlan Murdoch, will become the sole chairman of News Corp and continue as the chair and CEO of Fox, the companies said on Thursday. The transition solidifies Lachlan’s role as the leader of the media empire, putting to rest questions of succession within the Murdoch family.
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Murdoch, who has near-controlling stakes in both companies, will be appointed chairman emeritus of both the companies.
In a memo to staff Thursday, Murdoch wrote: “Our companies are in robust health, as am I.”
Murdoch, who has six children, has long desired his children to eventually take the reins of the empire. His son James had been CEO of Twenty-First Century Fox before the company’s decision to sell its film and television assets to Walt Disney Co for $71.3 billion, a deal that closed in 2019.
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James then channeled proceeds from the deal into a private investment firm, Lupa Systems. Lachlan was appointed CEO of the new Fox Corp.
Besides Fox News, Murdoch started the Fox broadcast network, the first to successfully challenge the Big Three of ABC, CBS and NBC, with shows like “The Simpsons.” He is owner of The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post.
Fox News Channel has profoundly influenced television and the nation’s politics since its start in 1996, making Murdoch a hero to some and pariah to others. The 24-hour network converted the power and energy of political talk radio to television. Within six years, it outrated CNN and MSNBC.
But it has been a rough year for Fox, which was forced to pay $787 million to settle a defamation lawsuit related to its coverage of false claims following the 2020 presidential election. Shortly after, Fox fired its most popular personality, Tucker Carlson.
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Rupert Murdoch’s full letter to colleagues:
“I am writing to let you all know that I have decided to transition to the role of Chairman Emeritus at Fox and News. For my entire professional life, I have been engaged daily with news and ideas, and that will not change. But the time is right for me to take on different roles, knowing that we have truly talented teams and a passionate, principled leader in Lachlan who will become sole Chairman of both companies.
“Neither excessive pride nor false humility are admirable qualities. But I am truly proud of what we have achieved collectively through the decades, and I owe much to my colleagues, whose contributions to our success have sometimes been unseen outside the company but are deeply appreciated by me. Whether the truck drivers distributing our papers, the cleaners who toil when we have left the office, the assistants who support us or the skilled operators behind the cameras or the computer code, we would be less successful and have less positive impact on society without your day-after-day dedication.
“Our companies are in robust health, as am I. Our opportunities far exceed our commercial challenges. We have every reason to be optimistic about the coming years – I certainly am, and plan to be here to participate in them. But the battle for the freedom of speech and, ultimately, the freedom of thought, has never been more intense.
“My father firmly believed in freedom, and Lachlan is absolutely committed to the cause. Self-serving bureaucracies are seeking to silence those who would question their provenance and purpose. Elites have open contempt for those who are not members of their rarefied class. Most of the media is in cahoots with those elites, peddling political narratives rather than pursuing the truth.
“In my new role, I can guarantee you that I will be involved every day in the contest of ideas. Our companies are communities, and I will be an active member of our community. I will be watching our broadcasts with a critical eye, reading our newspapers and websites and books with much interest, and reaching out to you with thoughts, ideas, and advice. When I visit your countries and companies, you can expect to see me in the office late on a Friday afternoon.
“I look forward to seeing you wherever you work and whatever your responsibility. And I urge you to make the most of this great opportunity to improve the world we live in.”
There was no immediate word on why Murdoch’s announcement came now. Ironically, it is the week author and Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff is publishing a book, “The Fall: The End of Fox News and the Murdoch Dynasty,” speculating on what will happen to the network when the patriarch is gone.
Murdoch and his family, particularly children James, Lachlan, Elisabeth and Prudence, were said to be the model of the HBO show “Succession.”
He built his empire from a single newspaper in Adelaide, Australia, inherited from his father and became a multi-billionaire. Forbes estimated the Murdoch family’s net worth at roughly $19 billion in 2020.
While Murdoch never ran for political office, politicians in the United States and Britain anxiously sought his approval.
The Associated Press and Newsmax writer Eric Mack contributed to this report.
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