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Who’s who in Rupert Murdoch’s family as he hands over Fox empire to son Lachlan

Rupert Murdoch has stepped down as chairman of Fox News and News Corp, naming his son Lachlan Murdoch as his successor

Meredith Clark
New York
Friday 22 September 2023 09:47 BST
Related: Rupert Murdoch steps down as chairman of Fox and News Corp

Rupert Murdoch is stepping down as chairman of Fox News and News Corp. In his place, his eldest son Lachlan Murdoch will take over to become sole chairman of both companies.

The change in leadership comes amid much speculation that Rupert’s three children from his second wife – Elisabeth, 55, Lachlan, 52, and James, 50 – each vied for the opportunity to control the media empire, mirroring the critically acclaimed HBO drama series, Succession.

In fact, the Murdoch family has served as inspiration behind the award-winning show, which came to an end this year after four seasons. While the “eldest boy” Kendall Roy lost out on becoming CEO of the fictional Waystar Royco, his real-life counterpart Lachlan has now been named his father’s successor.

In April 2023, a cover story from Vanity Fair claimed that Rupert believed a “Darwinian struggle” would produce the most capable successor to his media empire. “He pitted his kids against each other their entire lives. It’s sad,” a person close to the family told the outlet. The source described Lachlan as “the golden child” of the family, partly because he shared his father’s right-wing politics. His eldest daughter, Elisabeth, quit the family business in 2000, while James climbed the ranks after his brother Lachlan moved to Australia, following an alleged disagreement with Fox News chief Roger Ailes and chief operating officer Peter Chernin.

However, Rupert was apparently known for avoiding the topic of naming an heir apparent, as he was once reported by the Irish Times as saying: “Let the chips fall where they will.”

According to Vanity Fair, the decision for Lachlan to succeed their father was likely decided by his two siblings, all of whom sit on the company’s board of trustees. Not to mention, Rupert is also the father to daughter Prudence, 65, from his first marriage to Patricia Booker; and daughters Grace, 22, and Chloe, 20, from his third marriage to Wendi Deng Murdoch.

As Lachlan takes over as sole chairman of both Fox News and News Corp, where does that leave everyone else?

From Lachlan to Elisabeth, this is a who’s who of Rupert Murdoch’s family.

Lachlan Murdoch

Lachlan was born on 8 September 1971 in London. He studied philosophy at Princeton University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1994.

His father seemingly began training Lachlan to become his heir as early as 1989, when Lachlan was just 18 years old. He interned in Australia for three months at the Daily Mirror, before being appointed general manager of Queensland Newspapers at age 22. Lachlan was later named an executive of News Limited in 1995, executive director of News Corp in 1996, and deputy chief operating officer in 2000.

Lachlan was appointed to the News Corp board in 1996, becoming deputy chief operating officer of 21st Century Fox.

(Getty Images)

However, he abruptly resigned as an executive at News Corp in July 2005, amid speculation of a rift with Roger Ailes, the disgraced chairman and CEO of Fox News, Fox Television Stations and 20th Television. Lachlan returned as non-executive co-chairman of News Corp and 21st Century Fox in 2014 and was named executive chairman of 21st Century Fox one year later. After 21st Century Fox was acquired by Disney in March 2019, Lachlan was named chairman and CEO of the Fox Corporation.

He married British-born Australian model and actor, Sarah Murdoch née O’Hare, in 1999. They share three children: sons Kalan Alexander, 19, and Aidan Patrick, 17, and daughter Aerin Elisabeth, 13.

Lachlan moved his family back to Australia in March 2021, according to Vanity Fair.

James is Rupert’s second son and the youngest of his three children with his second wife, Anna Murdoch – whom Rupert was married to from 1967 to 1999. Speaking to Vanity Fair, a former News Corp executive described James as “a lone wolf” whose liberal political views are the exact opposite of his father’s and brother’s right-leaning views.

He was born on 13 December 1972 in London, and was regarded early on as the brightest of the Murdoch children, but was also something of a rebel. He began his career at 15 as an intern at the Sydney Mirror, but made headlines when he was photographed asleep on a sofa at a press conference.

James went on to study film and history at Harvard University, where he also worked on the school’s satirical magazine, the Harvard Lampoon. He dropped out of Harvard in 1995 to start an independent hip hop record label, Rawkus Records, with friends. The company was bought by News Corp in 1998.

He joined the family business that same year, becoming head of News Corp’s music division. James is credited with sparking his father’s interest in the internet. In May 2000, James was appointed chairman and chief executive of News Corp’s failing Asian satellite service, Star Television, and he moved to Hong Kong.


James was named CEO of British Sky Broadcasting group in 2003, of which News Corp owned a controlling minority stake. The move was controversial, as many believed James was too young and inexperienced to run the UK media company.

After his older brother Lachlan stepped down from his executive positions at News Corp in 2005, James was suddenly viewed as his father’s new heir apparent. He stepped down as CEO of BSkyB in 2007 and subsequently took over the development of News Corp’s television, newspaper, and related digital assets in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

After his father announced he would be leaving his position as CEO of 21st Century Fox in 2015, James quickly took over Rupert’s position. But when Disney acquired 21st Century Fox in 2019, it ended James’ tenure as CEO.

He ultimately resigned from the board of directors of News Corp in July 2020, stating in his resignation letter that it was “due to disagreements over certain editorial content published by the Company’s news outlets and certain other strategic decisions”.

James married Kathryn Hufschmid in 2000. The couple share three children: Anneka, born 2003; Walter, born 2004; and Emerson, born 2008. His wife previously worked for the Clinton Climate Initiative, a charitable foundation set up by the former US president Bill Clinton in 2006. In 2020, the couple each donated $615,000 to President Joe’s Biden election campaign.

According to Vanity Fair, James is allegedly “horrified” by Fox News and tells people the network’s embrace of “climate denialism, white nationalism, and stolen election conspiracies is a menace to American democracy”.

Sources also claimed to the outlet that James and Lachlan “no longer speak”, as it was a “big slap in the face” when Lachlan returned to the family business in 2015. Lachlan allegedly accused his younger brother of leaking stories to the writers of Succession. However, another source close to Lachlan denied that he told his father this.

Elisabeth Murdoch

Elisabeth Murdoch is Rupert’s second daughter and eldest of his three children with ex-wife Anna Murdoch.

She was born on 22 August 1968 in Sydney, Australia and was named after her paternal grandmother, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch. Elisabeth graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Vassar College in 1990.

She began her career at News Corp as a manager of programme acquisitions at her father’s FX Networks, before purchasing NBC-affiliate television stations KSBW and KSBY with her then-husband, Elkin Kwesi Pianim, on a $35m loan secured by her father. After selling the news stations for $12m, she relocated to London to work for BSkyB’s CEO Sam Chisholm. But while Elisabeth was named second-in-command to Chisholm, according to a profile in the New Yorker, her younger brothers had been elevated to bigger jobs.

She left BSkyB to launch her own film and television production company, Shine Limited, in 2001. Ten years later, it was acquired by her father’s News Corp. Elisabeth currently serves as executive chairman of the global TV and film production and development company, Sister, which she established in 2019.

Elisabeth, Murdoch’s second daughter, arriving at the British Fashion Awards in 2016 (Getty)

She welcomed two children with ex-husband Elkin Kwesi Pianim: daughters Cornelia, born in 1994, and Anna, born in 1997. They divorced in 1998. In August 2001, Elisabeth married public relations executive Matthew Freud, the son of former MP Sir Clement Freud and great-grandson of Sigmund Freud. She went on to have two more children with Freud: daughter Charlotte, born in 2000, and son Samson, born in 2007. In 2014, she and Freud filed for divorce after 13 years of marriage.

While Elisabeth shares much of the same liberal political views as her brother James, she has remained close with Rupert and Lachlan so as to “enjoy the time she has left with her father,” a source told Vanity Fair. “She’s terrified of Rupert dying mad at her,” they said.

Elisabeth publicly admitted to lobbying for her brother James to be demoted at the family’s News Corp media empire over his handling of the 2011 phone hacking scandal. Since then, the brother and sister have reportedly maintained a “complicated history,” according to Vanity Fair.

Prudence Murdoch

Prudence Murdoch is Rupert’s eldest child and daughter from his first marriage to ex-wife Patricia Booker. She was born in August 1958 in Adelaide, South Australia, but moved to London with her father after her parents divorce in 1967.

Compared to her younger siblings, Prudence has largely stayed out of the family business. She was once described by Vanity Fair in 2008 as “the only one of [Rupert Murdoch’s] children not directly competing for his business affections”.

Prudence MacLeod, eldest daughter of Rupert Murdoch, leaving Spencer House, London, after the wedding reception for Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall. (PA)

Most recently, a former News Corp executive referred to Prudence as “a wild card” when it came to who she believed should take over their father’s media empire. According to Vanity Fair, Prudence, Elisabeth, Lachlan, and James each have one vote on the board of trustees.

In 1985, Pruedence married English financier Crispin Odey, but they were divorced just 15 months later. She went on to marry businessman Alasdair MacLeod in 1989, who soon began working for Prudence’s father. They have three children: James, born 1991; Angus, born 1993; and Clementine, born 1996.

Grace and Chloe Murdoch

Rupert shares his youngest two children, Grace and Chloe, with ex-wife Wendi Deng Murdoch. The billionaire businessman met the Chinese-born American entrepreneur in 1997, while she was working as an executive at the News Corp-owned Star TV in Hong Kong.

(Getty Images)

Wendi, who is 37 years his junior, married Rupert in 1999, less than three weeks after his divorce from his second wife, Anna Murdoch, was finalised. The former couple went on to welcome two daughters – Grace, born in 2001, and Chloe, born in 2003 – before their divorce in June 2013.

Their daughters both grew up in New York City and attended the prestigious Brearley School in Manhattan. They live in New York City with their mother. Grace is currently a student at Yale University, while Chloe studies at Stanford University.

According to Vanity Fair, Rupert’s two youngest daughters have a financial stake in the family business but have no voting rights.

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