Elisabeth set for News Corp comeback

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The Independent Online

Rupert Murdoch has suggested that his daughter Elisabeth will rejoin the News Corp media empire one day, heightening concerns over nepotism at the publicly listed company and pointing to a three-way tussle among his children to succeed him.

It was thought that Elisabeth, 35, had permanently opted out of her father's business when, in 2000, she quit BSkyB, the UK satellite business that is one-third owned by News Corp.

However, in an interview published yesterday, Mr Murdoch, the chairman of News Corp, said he expected his daughter to make a comeback.

"She is a very, very hard-working and intelligent person, and she just loves the business," he said.

Ms Murdoch, who is married to the PR guru Matthew Freud, left Sky, where she was managing director of Sky Networks, to start her own television production company, Shine.

Her father said she had no near-term plans to rejoin News Corp but he thought that in time there was a very good chance she would do so.

"She is very settled into the London scene and what she is doing. I don't think she wants to, at least for a few years. She wants to be sure she has been successful in her own right.

"She will probably sell it [Shine] for a bloody fortune to someone. And then she will come knocking on the door, and she will be very welcome," Mr Murdoch said in an interview in theNew York Times.

Speculation over which of his children would eventually succeed Mr Murdoch, 72, had focused on his two sons. Lachlan, 32, the deputy chief operating officer of News Corp, runs the Australian operations and the US television studios.

"Lachlan is responsible right now for 60 per cent of the cash flow of News Corp and we are doing very well," said Mr Murdoch snr.

Lachlan was generally thought to be in pole position for the top job until recently, when James, 30, was installed as chief executive of BSkyB after his father declared he was the "best man" for the job.

Elisabeth has more experience of doing business independently. With her first husband, she bought a television station in California, improved the business and sold it for a considerable profit. Her Shine venture was slow to get off the ground but is now putting out a steady flow of programming.

Despite concern among some independent News Corp shareholders about nepotism, Mr Murdoch made it clear he wanted his children to succeed him. "I think it is a very, very human motive to see your work carried forward by one of your own," he said.

But he suggested that the best solution would be to split up the running of the empire. He pointed to the example of the Newhouse family, where SI and Donald jointly run the media business that owns Conde Nast, the magazine publisher. "Look at the Newhouse brothers. One is senior to the other, but they basically divide responsibilities," Mr Murdoch said.