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Rupert Murdoch’s handover to son Lachlan sparks concern in London

Concern about what the future holds for the UK arm of the empire centres on Lachlan’s ties to Britain which are widely viewed as much weaker.

Rupert Murdoch is stepping down as chairman of his global media empire
Rupert Murdoch is stepping down as chairman of his global media empire - Copyright AFP/File Matthew Hatcher
Rupert Murdoch is stepping down as chairman of his global media empire - Copyright AFP/File Matthew Hatcher
Marie HEUCLIN

Rupert Murdoch’s announcement that he will hand over control of his global media empire to son Lachlan has put the group’s British media, including the tabloid The Sun, on tenterhooks about its future place in the conglomerate.

Concern about what the future holds for the UK arm of the empire centres on Lachlan’s ties to Britain which are widely viewed as much weaker than his father’s.

In the UK, in addition to The Sun, Murdoch’s News Corp owns influential Conservative-leaning newspapers including the Times and the Sunday Times.

News Corp, is one of two legs of the 92-year-old billionaire’s media conglomerate, the other being Fox Corporation.

The UK arm last year also launched the right-wing television station TalkTV.

The handover will see Murdoch becoming honorary president of the two companies in mid-November.

Born in 1931 in Australia, Rupert Murdoch studied at Oxford University before returning in the late 1960s to buy the weekly News of the World and The Sun, making him a hugely influential figure in British political life.

His second wife Anna Torv was also a Scottish-born journalist.

Lachlan Murdoch, 52, although born in the UK, was raised in the United States and started his career in Australia.

Until now he has been president of Fox Corporation, parent company of Fox News, and was mainly in charge of the group’s US affairs.

The transfer of power to a successor who appears to have little personal attachment to the UK has inevitably prompted some concern.

“The inevitable appointment of Lachlan is bad news for the London arm (he has hardly visited here these last ten years),” former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie said in a column for the Spectator on Thursday.

The UK arm of Murdoch’s empire has lost its lustre in recent years amid the digital transition and a phone-hacking scandal that saw victims of crime, celebrities and public figures including members of the royal family snooped on by Murdoch journalists.

That scandal led to the closure in 2011 of the weekly News of the World newspaper in 2011, a title the Murdoch had owned since 1969.

– Control –

For many years The Sun was the most widely read newspaper in the UK.

It has not published figures since March 2020 when its circulation stood at just over 1.2 million

It remains, however, the second largest media outlet online with more than 24 million readers each month, behind the BBC, according to recent data from industry publication Press Gazette.

According to Alice Enders, of Enders Analysis which specialises in the media sector, the strength of Lachlan Murdoch’s personal connections to the UK are not the real issue.

“That’s not the question. The question is who owns the shares” in the group.

She said Rupert Murdoch was “not going to leave completely. He remains the owner and retains control.”

“Lachlan will not be able to launch a major transaction of sale or acquisition without the approval of his father”, she added.

It would in any case, she said, “make no sense to part company with The Times” at a time when its direct competitor, the Telegraph, and the influential conservative magazine The Spectator, are being put up for sale after the Barclay family lost control of their media empire.

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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