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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Amanda Meade

What does Lachlan Murdoch’s elevation mean for News Corp in Australia?

Lachlan and Rupert Murdoch
As Rupert Murdoch steps down as boss of News Corp and Fox, with Lachlan Murdoch his successor, the global media empire will be run at least some of the time from Australia. Composite: AAP/Getty

With Lachlan Murdoch to become the sole chair of News Corp as well as the chief executive of Fox Corp, the global Murdoch empire will be run at least some of the time from Australia.

Lachlan, 52, moved his family back to Sydney in March 2021 because his Australian-raised wife, Sarah, prefers the lifestyle and the schooling it can provide for their three children.

Lachlan commutes regularly on his private jet to work at Fox Corp in Los Angeles as well as the News Corp headquarters in New York. He was in the US for the announcement.

News that Rupert Murdoch was stepping down was not surprising to News Corp insiders, given the 92-year-old had already largely removed himself from the day-to-day running of his media empire, which began when he inherited a controlling shareholding in News Limited, publisher of an Adelaide newspaper, in 1952.

Lachlan cut his teeth in Australia, running Queensland Newspapers and then the Australian newspaper in his 20s, when he would arrive at News’s Holt Street headquarters on his motorbike and walk around the newsroom with his sleeves rolled up, just as his father had before him.

As co-chairman of News Corp before Friday’s announcement, Lachlan has been running the company for some time, making big changes in Australia, including removing Christopher Dore as editor-in-chief of the Australian and grooming the Sky News Australia CEO, Paul Whittaker, to take over from the News Corp Australia executive chairman, Michael Miller.

Lachlan put Whittaker into the powerful role of chair of the Australian’s editorial board, giving him ultimate say over what happens at the national broadsheet. Although the loyal editor Michelle Gunn was elevated to editor-in-chief when Dore left, Lachlan believed she needed guidance.

The future of the Australian, which Rupert launched in 1964, is less assured under Lachlan, who is arguably less wedded to the paper than his father.

The Australian’s editorial resources have been cut drastically in recent years but the paper remains influential in setting the political agenda, along with Sky News Australia and the tabloids.

Lachlan is understood to be happy with the success of Sky News Australia under Whittaker as it has expanded its digital footprint significantly.

He is similarly impressed with Foxtel under the leadership of Patrick Delany, which has successfully pivoted from a pay TV company to a streamer with separate apps Binge, Kayo and Fox Sports proving a hit with consumers.

Sources say Rupert has been spending more time relaxing than working in recent months, which is a change. He spent months holidaying with his new girlfriend while checking in with Lachlan regularly, insiders say. He met Elena Zhukova, 66, at a large family gathering held by his ex-wife Wendi Deng.

But as Rupert said in his note to staff: he is always watching.

“I will be watching our broadcasts with a critical eye, reading our newspapers and websites and books with much interest, and reaching out to you with thoughts, ideas, and advice,” he said.

While Lachlan has been active behind the scenes, he has been at arm’s length when it comes to local issues. In September 2021, while then co-chairman of News Corp, Lachlan declined an invitation from a parliamentary committee to speak, saying he hasn’t been in an executive position at the Australian arm of the media company for 10 years.

On the social scene, Lachlan and Sarah are active, including holding annual parties at their Bellevue Hill mansion in Sydney’s east for invited political and media leaders.

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