23rd September 2023 – (London) Rupert Murdoch’s recent announcement regarding the transition of power in his global media empire to his son Lachlan has left the British media, including the renowned tabloid The Sun, anxious about their future within the conglomerate.
The main concern surrounding the U.K. arm of Murdoch’s empire stems from Lachlan’s perceived weaker ties to Britain compared to his father’s strong connections.
Apart from The Sun, Murdoch’s News Corp also owns influential conservative-leaning newspapers in the U.K., such as the Times and the Sunday Times.
News Corp represents one of the two pillars of the 92-year-old billionaire’s media conglomerate, with the other being Fox Corporation.
Last year, the U.K. arm launched TalkTV, a right-wing television station.
The upcoming handover will see Rupert Murdoch assume the role of honorary president for both companies starting in mid-November.
Born in 1931 in Australia, Rupert Murdoch attended Oxford University before returning in the late 1960s to acquire the weekly News of the World and The Sun, establishing himself as an immensely influential figure in British politics.
His second wife, Anna Torv, also had a background in journalism and was born in Scotland.
On the other hand, Lachlan Murdoch, 52, was born in the U.K. but grew up in the United States and began his career in Australia.
Until now, he has served as the president of Fox Corporation, the parent company of Fox News, primarily overseeing the group’s affairs in the U.S.
The transfer of power to a successor who appears to have limited personal attachment to the U.K. has naturally raised concerns.
In a column for The Spectator, former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie expressed his apprehension, stating, “The inevitable appointment of Lachlan is bad news for the London arm (he has hardly visited here these last ten years).”
The U.K. division of Murdoch’s empire has experienced a decline in prominence in recent years due to the digital shift and a phone-hacking scandal that exposed unethical practices by Murdoch journalists, including snooping on victims of crimes, celebrities, and public figures, including members of the royal family.
As a result of the scandal, Murdoch was forced to shut down the News of the World newspaper in 2011, a publication he had owned since 1969.
Although The Sun was once the UK’s most widely read newspaper, its circulation figures have not been published since March 2020 when it stood at just over 1.2 million copies.
However, it remains the second-largest online media outlet, with over 24 million monthly readers, trailing behind the BBC, according to recent data from industry publication Press Gazette.
Alice Enders, an expert in the media sector at Enders Analysis, believes that Lachlan Murdoch’s personal connections to the U.K. are not the primary concern. Instead, she emphasizes that the key question lies in the ownership of shares within the group.
She asserts that Rupert Murdoch will not completely step away, as he will remain the owner and retain control. Lachlan will be unable to undertake significant sales or acquisitions without his father’s approval.
According to Enders, it would be illogical to part ways with The Times, especially considering that its direct competitor, the Telegraph, and the influential conservative magazine The Spectator are currently up for sale following the loss of control by the Barclay family over their media empire.