Rupert Murdoch, who took over his father’s small Australian newspaper in 1952 and spent the next 70 years building what would become Fox Corp. and News Corp, is retiring from his chairman roles at both companies and setting his son Lachlan, 52, to take his place, the companies announced Thursday.
The 92-year-old Murdoch will become Chairman Emeritus of each company while his son becomes the sole chair of News Corp. and maintains his role as executive chair and CEO of Fox Corp. The changes will be effective following a mid-November shareholders meeting – and finally settle a family succession drama that became less of an open question in recent years as Lachlan, the eldest sibling, ascended within his father’s empire as James and Elisabeth took a step back.
“On behalf of the FOX and News Corp boards of directors, leadership teams, and all the shareholders who have benefited from his hard work, I congratulate my father on his remarkable 70-year career,” said Lachlan Murdoch in a statement. “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.”
In a memo to his Fox colleagues, Murdoch wrote, “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 leader in Lachlan who will become sole Chairman of both companies.”
However, he assured Fox that he would still “be involved every day in the contest of ideas.”
In his parting memo, the billionaire took a populist swing at “self- serving bureaucracies” who he said “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.”
He continued, “The battle for the freedom of speech and, ultimately, the freedom of thought, has never been more intense.”
The media mogul’s departure comes after a tumultuous year for Fox Corp., which agreed to pay a $787.5 million settlement for Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit.
The settlement, however, didn’t come until after a discovery period in which internal Fox communications were publicly disclosed, which included messages from Murdoch about Fox News coverage of the 2020 election. Just as the trial was about to begin, in which Murdoch would be called to testify – something he desperately did not want to do – a settlement was announced.
Additionally, Fox News’ top anchor, Tucker Carlson was ousted from the network earlier this year.
Murdoch will remain a major shareholder in both Fox Corp. and News Corp. after his departure. He and his family have a 40% voting stake in News Corp. and around a 44% stake in Fox Corp.
Throughout his career, Murdoch shaped the media world by acquiring newspapers including Times of London, the New York Post, and the Wall Street Journal, while altering the U.S. cable news environment with Fox News.
Here is Rupert Murdoch’s full memo:
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.