Lachlan 'may return'to Murdoch newspapers

By Dominic Ponsford

Insiders have not ruled out a return to the family business for
Rupert Murdoch’s eldest son Lachlan, who has announced his resignation
as deputy chief operating officer of News Corporation.

And he could well return to head up the newspaper side of the empire.

Lachlan,
34, was based in New York as publisher of the Daily Post and was also
in charge of the company’s Australian newspapers. Although he has left
to return to Australia, one well-placed source suggested that it would
be premature to write off Murdoch’s heir apparent.

The source
said: “It’s not unthinkable that Lachlan could end up coming back to
head up the newspaper side of the business. In six or seven years he
could well return to the company.”

Murdoch is currently 74 and
unlikely to continue as boss of his media empire far into his 80s.
Lachlan’s resignation has left James, 32, favourite to succeed him.

Once viewed as the “black sheep” of the family, James dropped out of Harvard and ran a hip-hop music label.

But since controversially being appointed chief executive of BSkyB, he has led the company to greater financial success.

On
Wednesday BSkyB announced after-tax profits up 32 per cent to £425m on
revenue up 11 per cent to £4.05bn. The number of Sky subscribers rose
83,000 in the past three months to 7.8m.

James is understood to
be the least interested in newspapers of the Murdoch family. One theory
is that when Murdoch does finally retire James will lead the
broadcasting side of the business and Lachlan the newspaper publishing.

According
to one source: “The assumption that any one man could fill Rupert
Murdoch’s shoes is a dangerous one to make – that’s not something that
anyone’s who’s met him would have presumed.”

News Corporation
claims annual revenues of $23bn and includes the UK national titles The
Sun, News of the World, The Times, The Sunday Times and The Times
Educational Supplement.

● Rupert Murdoch’s decision to again take
over as publisher of The New York Post got big play – even in the rival
New York Daily News, writes Jeffrey Blyth in New York.

The New
York Times reported: “It’s back to the future.” Most papers pointed out
that it will put him head-to-head with Mort Zuckerman, the real-estate
developer who owns the Daily News.

A spokesman for Murdoch said:
“He relishes the prospect,” and added that The Post had always been
Murdoch’s big love. “When he is in New York he reads the paper end to
end. It’s a great part of his professional life. When he gave up being
publisher in 1986 he never fully left.”

Murdoch’s return is also seen as a News Corp commitment to the Post, despite its financial losses.

A media soap opera is how most American newspapers reported the
Murdoch story. Even the serious newspapers gave more space to the
family ramifications of Lachlan Murdoch’s decision to relinquish his
top job in the US and return to Australia The NY Times for example
headlined its report “An Empire Shaken – Hands That Rocked the Cradle
Now Shape a Company’s Fate” suggesting that it is the in-family
problems and who is likely to inherit the company that has precipitated
the new crisis.
 
Another headline suggested it is not money that is the problem –
but who has the power, The Wall Street Journal headlined its story ” At
News Corp., a Bitter Battle Over Inheritance Splits Family” . It was,
the WSJ suggested, Rupert Murdoch’s third wife, Wendi Deng, seeking a
stake for her two very young children that has upset Murdoch’s older
children – and provoked the crisis. It was not, it was suggested, just
a disagreement between Lachlan and his father over how he was running
the American side of the company – that is the company’s flagship paper
the New York Post and its 35 American TV companies.
 
Most of the lower echelons at the NY Post, for
example, were surprised. There was they insisted no hint of a crisis
brewing. There were some executives who recalled the open rows that
Lachlan had lately with his father, some which spilled out into the
corridors of the New York boardroom. But no-one took them too
seriously. Behind-the scenes, however, the situation over who
ultimately would have control of the company was simmering.
 
It was one paper here suggested a real-life
version of Dynasty, the once top-rated US television sit-com
Journalistically the story took most papers here by surprise. Of the
America newsmags only Newsweek was quick off the mark. Its report ,
spread over nearly three pages, also emphasised the “real life dynasty
that mixes family with business ‘ It suggested that it was the biggest
media story since Robert Maxwell disappeared off his yacht off the
Canary Islands in 1991
 
As for coverage of the story in Murdoch’s own
papers, the NY Post which would have probably gi
ven a similar story very tabloidish coverage, it gave a mere down-the
-page l0 paragraphs to Lachlan Murdoch’s decision to give up his post
as the paper’;s publisher, under a very prosaic and non-evocative
headline “Post Publisher Resigns” And that was it. No further mentions
. Not so the Post’s . big rival The NY Daily News which headlined its
story “Post’s Publisher Jumps A Ship Leaking Millions” gleefully
pointing out that the Post has been losing money at the rate of $70
million a year.

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