The resignation of Rupert Murdoch as leader of Fox News‘ parent company will leave his eldest son Lachlan Murdoch in control, raising questions about what the shake-up means for the cable news giant as it covers the 2024 election.
Lachlan will take over as chair of News Corp and continue as executive chair and CEO of Fox News parent Fox Corp, after 92 year-old Murdoch on Thursday announced he is stepping down from both companies.
The succession plan has been years in the making, with Lachlan taking over as CEO of Fox Corp in March 2019, when the company was formed from the assets left over from the sale of 21st Century Fox to Disney.
Lachlan’s status as heir apparent was cemented after brother James resigned from the board of sister company News Corp in July 2020, citing ‘disagreements over certain editorial content.’
Though Lachlan has long been an enigmatic figure, he is widely viewed as the most conservative of Rupert’s children, with some observers claiming he is further to the right of his father on some issues.
Rupert Murdoch is seen with his oldest son Lachlan Murdoch in 2018.
However, industry observers question whether Lachlan will make sweeping changes in the short term, with his father still in effective control through his voting shares.
‘It is too early to say what the future holds and unclear what direction the company will take under Lachlan’s stewardship,’ Paolo Pescatore, an industry expert from PP Foresight, told PA Media.
‘In the short term there should not be any drastic changes given he has been heavily involved for some time. However, he will want to cement his own position and create his own legacy.’
He added: ‘Lachlan’s first job will be to manage this transition as smoothly and seamlessly as possible to ensure no instability.
‘Regardless, big boots to fill and it is never easy given the empire created. However, (it is) still paramount to have Rupert in your corner.’
Lachlan takes over the Murdoch empire as the media industry at large is battered by challenges, including from the decline in traditional television viewership.
In addition to Fox News, Lachlan will preside over a sprawling media empire that includes The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post and The Sun, as well as Fox Sports, Fox Entertainment and others.
Fox News continues to be the number one US cable news network, playing an influential role in US politics as the country prepares for another presidential election in 2024.
What are Lachlan Murdoch’s politics?
For many years, Lachlan’s political views remained something of a mystery, though recently he has more openly asserted his conservative stances.
In March 2021, speaking at a Morgan Stanley conference, he said that Fox News would serve as the ‘loyal opposition’ to President Joe Biden, and predicted the network would enjoy the same ratings bump that MSNBC did during Donald Trump’s presidency.
Lachlan Cartwright, the Daily Beast’s editor-at-large, claimed in January that Lachlan Murdoch’s ‘politics are far more conservative than his father.’
‘He is staunchly more conservative than his dad and so I think if anything, you may see some of that appear in some of the titles throughout the empire,’ argued Cartwright on an episode of ‘The New Abnormal’ podcast.
For many years, Lachlan’s political views remained something of a mystery, though recently he has more openly asserted his conservative stances
Lachlan is seen with father Rupert in 2013
However, Lachlan’s views on Trump himself seem mercurial.
If Michael Wolff’s new book is to be believed, Lachlan kept toilet paper printed with Trump’s face during the 2016 election, and said that his family cried when the Republican won.
In response to that claim, Fox News told DailyMail.com: ‘The fact that this author’s books are spoofed by Saturday Night Live is really all you need to know.’
Last year, CNN cited sources as saying that Lachlan freely criticizes Trump in private, telling confidantes that he disapproves of the former president’s behavior.
However, text messages revealed in the Dominion lawsuit reveal that Lachlan instructed Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott to avoid any negative coverage of a November 14, 2020 rally at which Trump denied his election loss.
‘News guys have to be careful how they cover this rally,’ Lachlan said. ‘So far some of the side comments have been slightly anti, and they shouldn’t be. The narrative should be this huge celebration of the president.’
In another message, he called Fox correspondent Leland Vittert ‘smug and obnoxious.’ Vittert now anchors a show at NewsNation.
What will Lachlan’s ascension mean for Fox News?
The network’s coverage of the 2024 presidential primaries and general election will be under added scrutiny after the Dominion lawsuit.
A Fox News spokeswoman declined to comment when reached by DailyMail.com.
There has been no indication of lineup changes following Rupert’s resignation announcement and the network’s executive team remains unchanged in the transition.
Still, the changing of the guard prompted questions about what the Lachlan era might herald for the cable news giant.
In the past, Lachlan has signaled his support for Tucker Carlson, the host who was abruptly fired from the network in April, leading some to speculate about a Carlson comeback.
In 2021, Lachlan staunchly supported Carlson after the pundit was accused of spreading racism by the Anti-Defamation League. Lachlan penned a letter to the ADL backing Carlson.
But the exact circumstances of Carlson’s ouster, and Lachlan’s potential role in it, remain unclear, as does their current relationship.
It’s also not clear whether Carlson would welcome a détente with his former employer, after moving his show to X, formerly known as Twitter.
Rupert Murdoch is seen with sons James (right) and Lachlan (left) in 2016
Meanwhile, according to Wolff’s upcoming book about the network, Lachlan supported the idea of firing Sean Hannity as a way to appease Dominion Voting Systems it its defamation suit.
Lachlan reportedly suggested that Hannity’s secret romance with another host could be used as a pretext for firing him, citing the fate of former CNN boss Jeff Zucker as precedent.
Hannity remains a Fox News host, however, and the network has dismissed Wolff’s claims.
In a statement on Thursday, Lachlan congratulated his father for ‘his remarkable 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,’ he added.