Rupert Murdoch steps down from Fox and News Corp with son Lachlan to take over media empire

The world’s most powerful – and divisive – media tycoon hands over ‘The Sun’, ‘The Times’ newspapers and Fox Corporation to his son Lachlan after 70 years of making headlines

Holly Evans
Thursday 21 September 2023 21:28 BST

Rupert Murdoch steps down as chairman of Fox and News Corp

Rupert Murdoch – the world’s most powerful and divisive media tycoon – is stepping down as chairman of Fox Corporation and News Corp, after almost 70 years at the helm of his sprawling empire.

In a letter to colleagues, the Australian-born businessman, 92, who owns Fox News, The Times newspapers and The Sun, said it was the right time “to take on different roles”.

His eldest son Lachlan Murdoch will take over at the helm of both companies, ending long-running speculation that saw him vie with his brother James for control of the businesses – a storyline mirrored in the globally successful HBO series Succession.

Mr Murdoch, reported to have a net worth of over $17bn (£13.8bn) according to Forbes, said he will become chair emeritus of the two corporations and vowed to remain “engaged” in the businesses, which span United States, UK, Europe and Australia.

Rupert Murdoch took on Fleet Street with the acquisition of the ‘News of the World’ in 1968 and ‘The Sun’ in 1969

In a statement, he said: “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.”

The mogul, who said he was “proud” of his achievements, also criticised the “elites” – and the media “in cahoots” with them – as he promised to “be involved every day in the contest of ideas”.

“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,” he said.

The announcement comes after a turbulent year for Mr Murdoch and his empire, with him recently ditching plans to merge his Fox and News Corp operations.

In April, Fox agreed to pay $787.5m in a settlement to voting machine firm Dominion after a lengthy legal case related to Fox’s reporting of the 2020 presidential election, which Donald Trump lost, in the States.

Fox also faces an unresolved lawsuit from fellow voting machine firm Smartmatic, which is seeking around $2.7bn.

Personally, he also announced he was divorcing his fourth wife, the supermodel Jerry Hall, in 2022. Then, in April, he abruptly called off his engagement to Ann Lesley Smith, 66, after just two weeks, with one source citing Mr Murdoch’s alleged discomfort with her evangelical views.

Mr Murdoch’s News Corp, which has headquarters in New York, owns hundreds of local, national and international news outlets. The company owns the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, a conservative-leaning tabloid, as well as HarperCollins.

His son Lachlan has been named as his successor

The British arm of Murdoch’s media empire, News UK, publishes nearly a third of national papers sold every day, including The Sun and The Times.

He is credited with helping New Labour gain power having been privately courted by Tony Blair following 18 years of Conservative rule across three decades and two prime ministers.

Mr Murdoch first started to build his empire in Australia during the 1950s after he inherited his father’s interests in the Adelaide newspaper the News.

In 1969, he took on Fleet Street with the purchase of the News of the World and The Sun, which would both become two of the most successful and bestselling tabloids in the UK.

He went on to purchase The Times and Sunday Times in 1981, while also building his empire in America with the acquisition of the New York Post.

Murdoch later expanded into television to create Fox News Channel, now the most popular news network in the US.

Murdoch began building his empire in Australia during the 1950s

His lengthy career has not escaped controversy. In 2011, the outrage and condemnation over the phone hacking scandal led Mr Murdoch to close the News of the World tabloid, which left him “humbled and very shaken”.

Journalists working for the paper had accessed the voicemail of murdered teenager Milly Dowler, giving her parents false hope that she may still be alive. Celebrities, royals and politicians claimed to be victims of phone hacking, with the government ordering the highly critical Leveson Inquiry to examine press standards.

After the announcement, Piers Morgan hailed Mr Murdoch as a “bold, brilliant, visionary leader whose audacity and tenacity built a magnificently successful global media empire”.

The journalist and broadcaster was editor of News Of The World and currently has his own programme on TalkTV which is owned the media mogul’s company News UK.

Murdoch with News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks in 2011

Lachlan Murdoch also released an announcement congratulating his father and his legacy.

“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.

“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. We are grateful that he will serve as chairman emeritus and know he will continue to provide valued counsel to both companies.”

Murdoch with his sons Lachlan (left) and James

It was widely assumed that one of Mr Murdoch’s three children from his second marriage – Lachlan, James and Elisabeth – would succeed him in his role.

There had been much speculation inside and outside his News Corporation holding company about who was the favourite at any one time.

Jesse Armstrong, the creator of hit TV series Succession, confirmed that the original script was based on Mr Murdoch, following many years of speculation by fans and media.

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