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 Meet Lachlan Murdoch         09/23 07:25

   Story Similar to HBO Drama


   (AP) -- For Lachlan Murdoch, this moment has been a long time coming. 
Assuming, of course, that his moment has actually arrived.

   On Thursday, his father Rupert Murdoch announced that in November he'll step 
down as the head of his two media companies: News Corp. and Fox Corp. Lachlan 
will become the chair of News Corp. while remaining chief executive and chair 
at Fox Corp., the parent of Fox News Channel.

   The changes make Rupert's eldest son the undisputed leader of the media 
empire his father built over decades. There's no real sign that his siblings 
and former rivals James and Elisabeth contested him for the top job; James in 
particular has distanced himself from the company and his father's politics for 
several years. But Rupert, now 92, has long had a penchant for building up his 
oldest children only to later undermine them -- and sometimes to set them 
against one another -- often flipping the table without notice.

   Given Rupert Murdoch's advanced age, this might be his last power move. But 
there's a reason the HBO drama " Succession " was often interpreted as a thinly 
disguised and dark satire of his family business. In Murdoch World, as in the 
fictional world of the Roy family, seemingly sure things can go sideways in an 
instant, particularly when unexpected opportunities arise.

   Lachlan Murdoch has lived that first hand. Born in London, he grew up in New 
York City and attended Princeton, where he focused not on business, but 
philosophy. His bachelor's thesis, titled "A Study of Freedom and Morality in 
Kant's Practical Philosophy," addressed those weighty topics alongside passages 
of Hindu scripture. The thesis closed on a line from the Bhagavad Gita 
referencing "the infinite spirit" and "the pure calm of infinity," according to 
a 2019 article in The Intercept.

   Batrice Longuenesse, Lachlan's thesis adviser at Princeton, confirmed the 
accuracy of that report via email.

   After graduation, though, Lachlan plunged headlong into his father's 
business, moving to Australia to work for the Murdoch newspapers that were once 
the core of News Corp.'s business. Many assumed he was being groomed for higher 
things at News Corp., and they were not wrong. Within just a few years, Lachlan 
was deputy CEO of the News Corp. holding company for its Australian properties; 
shortly thereafter, he took an executive position at News Corp. itself and was 
soon running the company's television stations and print publishing operations.

   Lachlan's ascent came to an abrupt halt in 2005, when he resigned from News 
Corp. with no public explanation. According to Paddy Manning, an Australian 
journalist who last year published a biography of Lachlan Murdoch, the core 
problem involved two relatively minor issues on which Lachlan disagreed with 
Roger Ailes, who then ran Fox News.

   "The real point was that Lachlan felt Rupert had backed his executives over 
his son," Manning said in an interview. "So Lachlan felt, 'If I'm not going to 
be supported, then what's the point?'" Manning did not have direct access to 
Lachlan for his book "The Successor," but said he spoke in depth with the 
people closest to his subject.

   Lachlan returned to Australia, where he has often described feeling most at 
home, and founded an investment group that purchased a string of local radio 
stations among other properties.

   While he was away, News Corp. entered choppy waters. The U.K. phone-hacking 
scandal, in which tabloid journalists at the News of the World and other 
Murdoch-owned publications had found a way to listen to voicemails of the 
British royal family, journalistic competitors and even a missing schoolgirl, 
had seriously damaged the company. The fracas led to resignations of several 
News Corp. officials, criminal charges against some, and the closure of News of 
the World as its finances went south.

   Manning said that the damage the scandal inflicted on News Corp. -- and on 
both Lachlan Murdoch's father and his brother James, chief executive of News' 
British newspaper group at the time -- helped pull Lachlan back to the company.

   "He was watching the family tear itself apart over the phone-hacking 
scandal," Manning said. Lachlan was "instrumental in trying to circle the 
wagons and turn the guns outwards, and stop Rupert from sacking James."

   While it took more convincing, Lachlan eventually returned to the company in 
2014 as co-chairman of News Corp. alongside James.

   Not long afterward, Ailes was forced out of his job at Fox News following 
numerous credible allegations of sexual harassment.

   Lachlan Murdoch has drawn criticism from media watchdogs for what many 
called Fox News' increasingly conspiratorial and misinformation-promoting 
broadcasts. The network hit a nadir following the 2020 election when voting 
machine company Dominion Voting Systems sued Fox News for $1.6 billion, 
alleging that Fox knowingly promoted false conspiracy theories about the 
security of its voting machines.

   Fox settled that suit for $787.5 million in March of this year. A similar 
lawsuit filed by Smartmatic, another voting-machine maker, may go to trial in 
2025, Fox has suggested.

   In certain respects, though, Lachlan Murdoch's behavior suggests some 
ambivalence about his role at News Corp. In 2021 he moved back to Sidney and 
has been mixing commuting and remote work from Australia ever since. "I think 
there's a legitimate question about whether you can continue to do that and for 
how long" while running companies based in the U.S., Manning said.

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