Rupert Murdoch’s announcement on Thursday that he would step back from day-to-day oversight of his media empire paved the way for his eldest son Lachlan to take sole oversight of the business.
The move made it clear that Rupert Murdoch would like to see Lachlan at the helm of the company. But it did not answer the question of who will control the trust that decides the family’s shares after the elderly Mr Murdoch, 92, dies.
At this point, his four adult children must choose a final successor among themselves – and they appear to be at odds.
Hours after Mr. Murdoch’s announcement on Thursday, some media executives who worked with him argued that Mr. Murdoch would not have resigned without a larger move in mind that would further cement Lachlan’s control over the companies.
“His stepping aside is the pause,” said Ross Levinsohn, a former News Corp executive and now chairman and CEO of Arena Group, which publishes Sports Illustrated and Men’s Journal. “Wait until you see the final act.”
It is unclear what the crime could be. Fox Corporation and News Corp declined to comment.
Last year, Rupert Murdoch made a move that was widely seen within the empire as an attempt to bolster Lachlan’s authority: he sought to merge News Corp and Fox Corporation. He backed down in January because both companies said at the time that the merger would not be optimal for shareholders.
Two people close to Mr. Murdoch, who spoke on condition of anonymity, believe he will make another attempt to reunite the companies. People warned that a full merger was unlikely in the short term.
Any new deal would likely be preceded by a sale of parts of News Corp, including its real estate business, to address investor concerns that clouded the merger last year, the two people predicted. Some shareholders believe the real estate asset – which includes REA Group, an Australian property market leader – is more valuable than Wall Street News Corp is giving it credit for and they want it sold before merger talks begin.
Unless those assets are sold first, any attempt to reunite both companies could face resistance from News Corp shareholders wary of circumstances that would allow Rupert Murdoch to sell to himself at a discount. Some Fox shareholders were also skeptical of a deal with News Corp, arguing that the newspaper, sports and entertainment businesses were not complementary.
“We do not see the benefits of merging with News Corp, but rather think the company should pursue strategic alternatives on its own,” said Robert Fishman, an analyst at SVB MoffettNathanson. He added that a deal combining Fox News with the rest of News Corp could make sense.
Mr Murdoch appears to be fully committed to News Corp and Fox despite his announcement on Thursday. He was in his Los Angeles office this week and continues to advise Lachlan on overall strategy for the company, according to a person familiar with the matter.
In fact, in a letter announcing his decision to resign, Mr. Murdoch told staff to “expect to see me in the office late Friday afternoon,” adding that he would “contribute to thoughts, ideas, and… “I will turn to you for advice.” ”
The real power behind the throne of Mr. Murdoch’s empire will continue to be the man who founded it, said Rich Greenfield, an analyst at LightShed Partners.
“As long as Rupert Murdoch has control of these companies – whether he is CEO, chairman, chairman or chairman emeritus – he still owns the company and has done so since its inception,” Greenfield said.
Jon Miller, chairman of Integrated Media Company and a former News Corp chief executive, said Mr Murdoch had proven unsentimental about his businesses – with the exception of certain news publications – as evidenced by his decision to sell 21st Century Fox film studio and other entertainment assets went to Disney for $71.3 billion in 2017.
The tectonic shifts in the media industry, reflected in Disney’s willingness to consider significant moves – including an outright sale of the ABC broadcast network – suggest that Mr Murdoch could also consider a sale at the right price, Mr said Miller.
“At this point, all the cards are on the table,” he said, “and the Murdochs have never been afraid to come to that table.”
Source : www.nytimes.com