Who Is Lachlan Murdoch, Son And Successor Of Rupert Murdoch?

On Thursday, September 21, 2023, Australian billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch announced that he'd be stepping down from his role as chairman of both News Corp and Fox News, the latter of which is home to Fox News Media, Fox Sports, Fox Entertainment, and Fox Television Studios. Since his 20s, he has relentlessly acquired and built one property after another, including The Times, The Sun, the National Star, the New York Post, 20th Century Fox, Sky TV, and more. "For my entire professional life," the 92-year-old wrote in a memo to employees, "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." 

One such team member is his elder son from his second marriage, Lachlan Murdoch, who will be taking over leadership in his father's place. The younger Murdoch has orbited in and out of the News Corp and Fox News spheres his entire life, but he has been CEO of Fox Corp since 2019 and was executive chairman of 21st Century Fox since 2015 before it was acquired by Disney, as Time Magazine says. Lachman is the natural and "obvious choice" to take over the Murdoch media empire, NBC News quotes an employee, as "he's been running Fox News for years." Now that the younger Murdoch will inherit his father's media empire, people are left wondering about his history, his qualifications, and perhaps most of all, whether or not he'll follow in his father's ideological footsteps.

Heir, businessman, husband, and father

Lachlan Murdoch is the third of his father's six children across three marriages — his mother is Rupert Murdoch's second wife, Anna Maria Torv. Born in London in 1971, he mostly grew up in New York, where his father's main U.S.-based businesses reside. Per a 1998 profile on The New York Times, Lachlan got up before dawn to have breakfast with his father before the elder Murdoch set off for work, and at night would listen in on his father's dinner table business dealings. At the time he was described as predisposed to business but having a non-confrontational "light touch." 

Insider says that Lachlan attended private schools before studying philosophy at Princeton and moving back to Australia to oversee his father's businesses there. As The New York Times reports, he has lived in Sydney since 2021 and regularly commutes between Sydney and New York on a private jet. The 14-hour time difference has taken a toll, especially because he frequently takes calls at late hours.

In his personal life, National World reported in 2023 that Lachlan Murdoch had been married for 24 years. He married his wife, model Sarah O'Hare, in 1999, and the two have three children together: sons Kalan and Aidan and daughter Aerin. As far as personal interests are concerned, the Daily Mail says that Lachlan paid $150 million for a superyacht named "Sarissa" large enough to house 12 guests and 10 staff.

Orbiting the News Corp sphere

Lachlan Murdoch slipped in and out of his father's orbit for decades before accepting his current mantle as dual-chairman of News Corp and Fox Corp. As Insider explains, Lachlan took over as deputy chief operating officer of News Corp in 1997, and the company said he was "directly responsible" for two-thirds of the company's revenue around the world. At the time his father Rupert described him as "first among equals" when thinking of successors, as CNN quotes. And yet, come 2005 Lachlan left his position behind after butting heads with former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, who eventually resigned from his position in 2016 following sexual harassment allegations, as The Guardian overviews. For its part, Insider says the younger Murdoch resigned in 2005 because of "reported tensions between company executives and his family."

For nearly a decade Lachlan worked from Australia on his own investment firm, Illyria, which he founded a scant three days after leaving News Corp, per Financial Times. As Insider explains, Illyria invested in a variety of media groups — like Nova Entertainment — and was modestly successful. But even while working for his father, Lachlan tried his hand at independent business ventures like the telecommunications company One.Tel, which The New York Times says fell through in 2001. Come 2014, however, Lachlan Murdoch got pulled back into the family business in a big way. His father appointed him nonexecutive co-chairman of both News Corp and 21st Century Fox, where he came head-to-head with his brother and chief rival: James.

Brotherly blood that binds

Time Magazine describes how analysts believe that Rupert Murdoch — perhaps in an attempt to finalize which son should take over for him — pitted his two sons together in a competitive vie for successorship. If true, this would be part of the reason why Rupert appointed Lachlan and his brother co-chairmen of 20th Century Fox in 2015. And yet, in 2005 New York Magazine says that Rupert always intended Lachlan to be his successor — it was just a matter of time and maneuvering.

James always had a more liberal bend than his older brother and father and had verbalized his worries about Fox News' direction moving through the 2010s, as The New York Times reports. In 2016 — the year of Donald Trump's presidential election — he penned an essay for Time Magazine talking about the importance of "narratives." He said that 2016 would be the year to see whether "stories of anger, grievance, resentment and scapegoating of the 'other' are ascendant, or whether stories of the power of love, empathy and hope for a better future rule the day." Four years later in 2020 he resigned from the board of News Corp, citing "disagreements over certain editorial content published by the company's news outlets and certain other strategic decisions," per The New York Times.

And so, Lachlan remained the undisputed heir to the Murdoch media empire. Insider says that he and his brother James currently "aren't on speaking terms."

In his father's footsteps

Much of the concern about Lachlan's adoption of the Murdoch media mantle boils down to how his personal, political views might steer his father's businesses in a similar or opposing direction. Over the past decades, Fox News and Murdoch properties on a whole — including tabloids like the New York Post and telecommunications companies like Sky — have garnered a reputation not just for conservatism but for outright right-wing advocacy, including of the increasingly extreme kind. The New York Times, for instance, discusses how Fox News' "persistent broadcasting of conspiracy theories about vote-rigging in the 2020 election" served to further divide the American public by pushing hard right-wing political views. Fox News notably settled a $787.5-million lawsuit with Dominion Voting Systems over such claims.

While it's unknown exactly how Lachlan will direct News Corp and Fox News, The New York Times quotes News Corp Australia editor Chris Mitchell as saying, "Lachlan's conservatism is more vigorous than that of any Australian politician." Despite the outlet saying he's "less overtly political" than his father, the younger Murdoch has made it clear — at least ahead of his recent appointment — that he supports his father's conservatism. In his memo to emplyees, Rupert Murdoch said "The battle for the freedom of speech and, ultimately, the freedom of thought, has never been more intense. My father firmly believed in freedom, and Lachlan is absolutely committed to the cause," adding, "In my new role, I can guarantee you that I will be involved every day in the contest of ideas."

The future of Fox

At present, some have taken the passing of the Murdoch torch as signaling a downturn for the family's mass media empire. NBC News says that "[Rupert] Murdoch's departure comes at a pivotal time for the conservative media ecosystem," in part because of a shift to public consumption of news and political commentary via online and streaming services, and in part because of competition from outlets like the Ben Shapiro-founded The Daily Wire. And yet, Murdoch says in his note, "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." 

For his part, Lachlan Murdoch hasn't made any kind of public statement about his new position other than polite, boilerplate statements. In a statement, he said (via The Sun), "I congratulate my dad on an incredible nearly 70-year career. 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."

On that note, The New York Times quotes Insider Intelligence analyst Paul Verna as saying, "Given the strong ideological affinities between Lachlan Murdoch and his father, and given the elder Murdoch's advisory role as chairman emeritus, I don't expect a noticeable shift in the company's editorial positioning or strategic direction."