Lachlan Murdoch has taken over the running of News Corp in Australia from his father Rupert Murdoch, according to an insider. (Reuters: Peter Nicholls)
What will News Corp look like when Rupert Murdoch, 87, is no longer at the helm? An insider says son Lachlan is already calling the shots in Australia.
“Lachlan’s been operating under the radar a bit,” Mark Day, media commentator for News Corp newspaper The Australian, told 7.30.
“Lachlan’s been calling the shots a lot more than Rupert in recent years, particularly in the Australian market.
“It’s a kind of knee-jerk reaction to blame Rupert, but in fact Lachlan’s running the show these days, at least here.
“Lachlan is the logical inheritor of the news-related businesses and, after all, like his father, he’s been in them since the day he was born. He’s been at his father’s knee right from get go.”
Lachlan Murdoch is the future chairman and CEO of Fox as well as co-chairman of News Corp — his father remains the executive chairman of News Corp.
Murdoch offloading assets
Rupert Murdoch has recently been cashing in.
He sold Sky TV in Europe for $US15 billion in September. And Disney is buying 21st Century Fox for a staggering $US71 billion.
But US TV network Fox News will stay in Murdoch hands.
“I’m not embarrassed by what they [Fox News] do at all,” Lachlan told a New York Times forum last week.
“You have to understand that Fox News is the only mass media company in America, in this country, with strong conservative opinion in prime time.
“Not one of a few, it is the only one, and I frankly feel in this country we all have to be more tolerant of each other’s views.
“That goes for everyone in this country, on both coasts.
“We’ve come to this point where we are more and more intolerant of each other and frankly that just has to change.”
This week, the News Corp annual general meeting is taking place in New York, and investors will hear a clear message from Rupert, claiming the company’s most successful year since the phone-hacking scandal.
‘Final big decision’
Day believes the sale of 21st Century Fox was probably Rupert’s last major move.
“I think it’s Rupert’s final big decision, but that doesn’t mean to say the new Fox or News Corporation won’t do other big things in the future. I think it’s more likely to fall to Lachlan to do that,” he said.
“What’s the future for the companies? Business as usual,” he said.
“I don’t know if it’ll fall to Lachlan to close the presses. Probably will. That’s something that Rupert’s unlikely to do.”
Alan Rusbridger, former editor-in-chief of The Guardian, said News Corp, “like all news companies”, would “be flinging around for different kinds of revenue”.
“But he [Rupert] starts with a very large company over which he has virtual total control, so he can push the money around that company wherever he wants.”
Virgin Media CEO Tom Mockridge worked for Rupert Murdoch for decades in his businesses around the globe.
He expects Rupert to remain influential.
“Let’s not think legacy because, as far as I’m aware, Rupert’s out there and still going very strongly,” he told 7.30.
“They’re prepared to make some pretty fundamental changes around the business model but that gives them an opportunity to enter other markets.
“I’d keep watching.”
Murdoch to remain ‘very influential’ in digital content debate
News organisations across the world have faced a massive challenge from online behemoths Facebook and Google, which has been taking their news content free at the same time as gobbling up advertising revenue.
Facebook and Google argue they are drivers of news content, but when Spain proposed a tax on their usage in 2014, Google shut its Spanish news service down.
The debate over who produces content and how that is sustainably funded continues.
However that resolves itself, Rusbridger thinks Rupert will remain “a very influential person in that debate”.
“Where we are now, there is a big conflict between the digital world — the social world — and the so-called legacy media, and it’s not clear how that’s going to play out,” he told 7.30.
“It could play out that people are going to retreat back to mainstream media, because they’re trustworthy and they tell the truth and the internet is chaotic.
“Or it could be that people will find a kind of truth and voice and equality on the internet and rebel against the people who were the old gatekeepers [and] say, ‘Why do we need Rupert Murdoch to decide what we can read? Who’s Rupert Murdoch to tell us what to believe or how to vote?'”