Rupert Murdoch and 21st Century Fox: The sometimes very public feuding of the Murdoch family is over, for now

Investors will hope today's news will draw a line under controversies

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The Independent Online

All families feud. And it is rarely attractive when the warring plays out in the open.

Just four years ago, it appeared that relations between Rupert Murdoch and his youngest son, James, were little short of toxic. Amid the fall-out from the inquiry into the phone hacking scandal, an article in the New York Times suggested that the Mr Murdoch had issued an ultimatum to his son.

“You’re coming back to New York, or you’re out,” he had told him.

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James Murdoch talking to members of the British parliament

The elder man got his way, and that may have been the start of the healing process. Now we know that the 84-year-old Rupert Murdoch intends to install his younger son as CEO of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc, a job the media baron has himself held since 1979.

Reports said Mr Murdoch’s elder son, Lachlan, 43, who for many years was at loggerheads with his father, is to take up the position of executive co-chairman along with his father.

New York’s CNBC channel, the first to break the news on Friday moring, said that while James Murdoch will take over the day-to-day management of Fox, Lachlan will work on broader strategy for the company. The father will presumably not be from the action.

Reports said that the split between Rupert Murdoch and James had its origin in a decision the younger man took to unilaterally to switch the support of his four London-based newspapers to the Conservative Party after a decade backing Labour. Mr Murdoch, who was close to Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown, was said to be “upset deeply”.

 

Reports said that since James Murdoch, who have up his job of running BskyB in the aftermath of the hacking scandal and returned to New York, has been winning fans among the Fox investor base for his work as co-Chief Operating Officer.

CNBC said those sources said James had matured as a leader, had a detailed knowledge of the company's operations and was now the driving force behind the company expansion in digital distribution.

“James will have the primary role in running Fox while Lachlan will take on a broader strategic role from his co-chairman position,” the channel said.

The news, which was also reported by the Fox News channel, which cited Rupert Murdoch as source, would finally appear to settle any lingering doubts about the issue of succession.

 

It seems remarkable to remember that just three years ago, Rupert Murdoch’s daughter, Elisabeth, made what many considered was her own pitch for power when she criticised both her father and brother James and his handling of the family businesses.

Following the revelations of the hacking scandal probes, News Corp had to ask “significant and difficult questions about how some behaviours fell so far short of its values”, she said.

Speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, said that the lesson from the affair was that any large organisation needed to “discuss, affirm and institutionalise a rigorous set of values based on an explicit statement of purpose”.

Ms Murdoch, who runs Shine Television, the News Corp-owned maker of programmes such as Masterchef and Merlin, said this was in contrast to News Corp’s traditional mode of governance based on executives second-guessing what Rupert Murdoch would do.

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ELisabeth Murdoch

In the US, Mr Murdoch’s empire – which started with a single newspaper in Australia – includes everything from the Fox TV stations, Dow Jones, the Wall Street Journal, New York Post, 20th Century Fox film studio, and the HarperCollins book publishing.

The businesses were rocked by the hacking scandal that involved its British newspapers as the the shock waves reverberated across the Atlantic. Under pressure from investors, Mr Murdoch split the original News Corp into print and entertainment companies in 2013.

Thursday’s news should settle the nerves of those investors for now. But among the Murdoch clan, nothing should be taken for granted.

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