Three men wearing suits and ties posing for a photo.
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Key Points
  • Rupert Murdoch is stepping down as chairman of News Corp and Fox News.
  • It comes after a difficult year for Fox News.
  • His eldest son, Lachlan, takes over from him.
Rupert Murdoch, the 92-year-old Australian media magnate whose creation of Fox News made him a force in United States politics, is stepping down as leader of both Fox’s parent company and his News Corp media holdings.
Fox said on Thursday that Murdoch would become chairman emeritus of both companies, effective at board meetings in November. His son, Lachlan, will become News Corp chairman and continue as chief executive officer of Fox Corp.

Lachlan Murdoch said: “we are grateful that he will serve as chairman emeritus and know he will continue to provide valued counsel to both companies.”

Three men wearing suits and ties posing for a photo.

Rupert Murdoch (centre) and his sons Lachlan (left) and James pictured in 2018. Source: AAP

Besides Fox News, Rupert Murdoch started the Fox broadcast network, the first to successfully challenge the Big Three of ABC, CBS and NBC, with shows like The Simpsons. He is the owner of The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post.

He slimmed down his corporate holdings with the 2019 sale of many entertainment assets to the Walt Disney Co. These included film production, rights to the Marvel comics, National Geographic and the cable network FX.
In a letter Murdoch sent to staff on Thursday, he wrote “the time was right… to take on different roles”.
He thundered about elites who have “open contempt for those who are not members of their rarefied class.” His letter made it clear he doesn’t consider himself one of them, despite his status as a media executive and his family’s wealth, estimated by Forbes in 2020 at about $US19 billion ($A30 billion).
He also indicated his retirement won’t include much beach time.
“I can guarantee you that I will be involved every day in the contest of ideas,” he wrote.

“Our companies are communities, and I will be an active member of our community. I will be watching our broadcasts with a critical eye, reading our newspapers and websites and books with much interest.”

A rough year for Fox

Fox News Channel has profoundly influenced television and the nation’s politics since its start in 1996, making Murdoch a hero to some and a pariah to others. The 24-hour network converted the power and energy of political talk radio to television. Within six years, it outrated CNN and MSNBC.
But it has been a rough year for Fox, which was forced to pay US$787 million ($1.23 billion) to settle a defamation lawsuit related to its coverage of false claims following the 2020 presidential election. Shortly after, .
There was no immediate word on why Murdoch’s announcement came now. Ironically, next week author and Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff is publishing a book, The End of Fox News, speculating on what will happen to the network when the patriarch is gone.

Murdoch and his family, particularly children James, Lachlan, Elisabeth and Prudence, were said to be the model of the HBO show Succession.

Murdoch’s rise to prominence

Murdoch built his empire from a single newspaper in Adelaide inherited from his father and became a multi-billionaire.
While he never ran for political office, politicians in the United States and Britain anxiously sought his approval. He had a complicated relationship with Donald Trump. Wolff reported in 2018 that Murdoch had called Trump an “idiot,” adding an expletive for emphasis, but Fox News is built with an audience that largely admires Trump.
Fox briefly seemed to tout the candidacy of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in the current election cycle, but that has faded along with DeSantis’ prospects.
For decades, Murdoch was one of the most powerful media figures in Britain, a market he entered after buying the tabloid News of the World in 1969. He reinvigorated Britain’s stodgy newspaper scene with sex, scandal and celebrity and helped shake up television with satellite broadcaster Sky.
His clout has waned since the revelation more than a decade ago that employees of the News of the World had eavesdropped on phones and used other underhanded methods to get scoops on celebrities, politicians and royals.

News Corp owns British newspapers the Times, Sunday Times and Sun newspapers, but News of the World closed and Murdoch sold his 40 per cent stake in Sky when he failed to get complete control of the company.

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