Lachlan Murdoch, 52, will become sole chairman of News Corp in November after the annual AGM. BRENDAN MCDERMID (REUTERS)
The mansion is known as Chartwell. The imposing residence of 18 bedrooms, 24 bathrooms and a cellarwith space for 12,000 bottles occupies four hectares of the exclusive neighborhood of Bel-Air, an area of ultra-rich northwest Los Angeles. The purchase of the building in 2019, for about $150 million, broke records among the city's real estate transactions. The opulent Versailles-inspired building was changing hands between media moguls. It was owned by Jerry Perenchio, who was president of Univision, and passed into the hands of Lachlan Murdoch, who will receive in November from his father, Rupert Murdoch, the throne of the conservative media empire News Corp.
Chartwell has a special nod to American conservatives. Within its grounds is the home that Republican President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy owned in Bel-Air. The mansion is one of the nuclei of News Corp's power. Australian journalist Penny Manning, author of Lachlan's unauthorized biography, The Successor, says the businessman summoned the company's top executives to his mansion in February last year. The meeting was a kind of summit to determine the digital strategy that the huge group based in the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom would take regarding Network 3.0. Manning says the meeting was a clear sign that Lachlan was ready to take the reins of the company he is now co-chairman of and will inherit to lead alone once the Annual General Meeting passes.
Lachlan, 52, is the third child of Rupert Murdoch's six. It is the second that the tycoon had with his second wife, the Scottish journalist Anna Murdoch Mann. She parted ways with the newspaper mogul in 1999. Although he was born in London, he was raised in New York with older sister, Elisabeth, and younger brother, James. He studied philosophy at Princeton, but very soon began the path that heirs must travel to take control of a family business. Lachlan worked at several of the group's newspapers, especially in the United Kingdom and in Australia, a country where he spent a decade and which he still uses as his base of operations. His brothers, on the other hand, focused on the audiovisual part of the corporation, which also includes the Harper Collins publishing house. He joined News Corp's Board of Directors in 1996.
In 2002, at the age of 30, he joined the Board of Fox, the group's main television channel. His father then noted his son's "intellect and energy." This, however, had a gesture of rebellion when he left News Corp in 2005. The departure was due to differences with his father, who favored Roger Ailes, the controversial executive who launched Fox News and made the conservative approach have its impact on American culture. Outside of the family business, Lachlan created an investment fund in Australia with which he did several businesses in the sector. Among these, Nova Entertainment, a network of local radio stations and TV channel 10.
Struggle for succession
It was during those years when the temperature of the battle for a succession that all viewers of Succession, the hit HBO series, have wanted to compare with the history of the Murdochs. With Lachlan looking for luck in his business, the focus was on his brother James, who ran the Sky satellite channel in England and India. James also oversaw Fox's international business for more than 20 years, though his political vision was more aligned with progressive causes. In fact, he came to publicly disagree with the editorial policy of the news at home, especially after the 2020 elections, when the network's journalists insisted on electoral fraud without having proof of it.
Lachlan returned to the company in 2014 at his father's request. He then moved with his wife, model Sarah Murdoch, to Los Angeles, to be halfway between Sydney and New York, where the company's headquarters are located. The city, home to many celebrities, allowed him to raise the profile of the luxurious life he likes to lead. He collects custom-designed Porsches and has a yacht worth $175 million.
Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan, during a US Open match in 2018. Jean Catuffe (GC Images)
With his return, Rupert Murdoch realized he was more in tune with Lachlan's business vision and political ideology, naming him co-chairman of News Corp and 21st Century Fox. In November 2018 it became clear to almost everyone who the press mogul's choice was to succeed him. The last meeting with shareholders was held before 21st Century Fox passed into the hands of Disney, an operation that closed in 2019 for 72,000 million dollars. James Murdoch did not speak, despite having been the chain's top executive for the past three years. The singing voice of the event was Lachlan, who dedicated the speech to talk about the trajectory of the man who forged the media empire for more than six decades. "He has always had a passion for engaging audiences with lasting stories and experiences, but perhaps the most enduring of all stories is his own," he said.
With the sale of the studio and its contents to Disney, Fox condensed its television business into sports and news. Lachlan's appointment has alarmed some analysts in the U.S. press. "Lachlan is a less competent leader than his father, but his worldview is considerably more brutal. His leadership will intensify the misconduct, misinformation and evil that has defined the Murdochs' media emporium," said Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters, a progressive nonprofit organization dedicated to monitoring and providing analysis to debunk and add context to the fake news spread by the ultraconservative press in the United States. Carusone claims that Lachlan's arrival is akin to throwing a match at a pyre waiting for combustion.
Murdoch biographers say Lachlan doesn't get involved in editorial decisions as much as his father and prefers to concentrate on corporate strategy, especially at a time when the newspaper business is in decline. Critics of the Murdochs, however, point out that his conservative vision follows in the wake of Rupertand that his management as co-chairman allowed the rise of the controversial Tucker Carlson to become the top star of the chain. Carlson, who has been a beacon of the far right, was fired in April, a week after Fox paid $787 million to avoid a defamation lawsuit for spreading lies about the 2020 presidential election. With that money, they compensated Dominion, after presenters and guests of the chain assured that this company had participated in a conspiracy to steal the elections from Donald Trump and thus get the victory Joe Biden. Lachlan defended Carlson in several of his controversies until this scandal broke and the continuity of the presenter became untenable.
Lachlan will now have to lead the company in a new transformation that comes at the gates of a presidential election in the United States, which will be held in November 2024. The arrival of the heir to the throne has shaken the top executives for the moment. Anne Dias-Griffin, who called on the Murdochs to distance themselves from Donald Trump after the storming of the Capitol, is expected to leave the Board of Directors. Also leaving will be Jacques Nasser, who will be replaced in the coming months by former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
In January of this year, Rupert Murdoch canceled the merger of Fox and News Corp, two businesses that were separated in 2013 and that Lachlan had proposed to reunite to consolidate his power. Among the critics of the operation was James, his younger brother. This has been one of the recent setbacks of the man called to reignthe empire that his father raised.
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