The family of Rupert Murdoch became so divided over the sale of key 21st Century Fox film and TV assets to Disney that papers were drawn up for the mogul and his son and successor, Lachlan, to buy out the stock of siblings James, Elisabeth and Prudence, the New York Times reported Wednesday. The deal fell through late last year after Lachlan Murdoch got cold feet over the financial cost, the paper reported.
That’s just one of the many revelations in a lengthy exposé in the Times, titled “How Rupert Murdoch’s Empire of Influence Remade the World.”
Here are some of the other noteworthy revelations in the story, reported over six months by Jonathan Mahler and Jim Rutenberg.
1. Rupert Murdoch has long ties to Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump
The mogul and his then-wife Wendi took Kushner and Ivanka Trump on vacation on Murdoch’s yacht in the Caribbean, the Times reported, and Kushner helped Murdoch find a decorator for his new apartment following their divorce in 2013. In addition, Ivanka Trump was one of five people named to oversee the $300 million trust for Murdoch’s two daughters with Wendi (she stepped down from that role in 2016).
2. Before he landed the Republican nomination in 2016, Murdoch called Trump an “idiot”
Citing three people close to the mogul, the Times reported that Rupert Murdoch referred to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump as “a [expletive] idiot” — until he secured the Republican nomination and won the backing of the Murdoch (as well as the Fox News empire). Through a spokeswoman, Murdoch denied to the Times that he ever used this phrase.
3. James Murdoch’s wife tried to broker a meeting between Rupert and Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign
James Murdoch’s more liberal-leaning wife, Kathryn, tried to arrange a meeting between Hillary Clinton and her father-in-law during the 2016 campaign in hopes he would consider an endorsement or neutrality, the Times reported. But Murdoch himself had reached out to the Democratic nominee, who the paper said declined his invitation to meet.
4. The News of the World hacking scandal opened family rifts
The phone-hacking scandal involving British newspapers owned by the Murdochs opened new rifts among the dueling Murdoch siblings. According to the Times, James Murdoch questioned his father’s mental health to some members of the News Corp. board because he felt Rupert wanted him to cover up the scandal. In addition, four individuals told the Times that his older sister Elisabeth — who had mostly removed herself from the family business at that point — urged her father to fire James and replace him with her. (Her spokesperson denied this.)
5. James Murdoch considered CBS News boss David Rhodes to replace Roger Ailes
When Roger Ailes was ousted as head of Fox News in 2016 in the wake of sexual harassment accusations, James Murdoch considered hiring then-CBS News president David Rhodes — an idea that both Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch rejected, the Times wrote.
6. James Murdoch pressed his dad to issue company statement after Trump’s Muslim travel ban
In the early days of the Trump presidency, the more politically moderate James Murdoch pressed his father and brother to issue a companywide memo in support of diversity and immigration following the executive order banning immigration from several Muslim-majority nations: “We deeply value diversity and believe immigration is an essential part of America’s strength.” James had wanted a stronger statement opposing Trump’s policy and reassuring the company’s Muslim employees, and individuals close to him told the Times that securing approval for even the more tepid statement was “like pulling teeth.”
7. Lachlan Murdoch threatened to walk out over Disney deal
Favored son Lachlan Murdoch opposed Disney’s acquisition of most of Fox’s film and TV assets, which has left him with a much smaller media empire to run. “Why the [expletive] would I want to run this company?” he said privately, according to the Times.
His opposition was so strong that according to three unnamed individuals, during a dinner meeting in fall 2017 he threatened to never speak to his father again if he went through with the deal: “If you take one more call on this deal, you will not have a son!” (Representatives for Murdoch and Lachlan denied that he made these threats.)
8. James Murdoch really wanted a job at Disney
James Murdoch saw the Disney deal as a possible escape route for him — especially since longtime Disney CEO Bob Iger had not lined up a successor and his father had installed Lachlan above him in the Fox hierarchy. But Murdoch assured Iger that James’ future at the new company would not be part of the deal negotiations, the Times reported, and three individuals said that James decided this winter not to join the newly combined Disney-Fox operation.
9. Rupert Murdoch nearly died on Lachlan’s yacht last year
The Times suggested that Rupert Murdoch’s hospitalization following a fall on Lachlan’s yacht was far more serious that previously reported, and that the mogul “appeared to be so close to death that his wife, the model Jerry Hall, summoned his children to say their goodbyes.”
10. Lachlan Murdoch privately backed Tucker Carlson’s anti-immigrant rhetoric