Murdoch hints at succession settlement

A dispute that threatened to split the Murdoch Family has been resolved. In an interview on an American television talk show, Rupert Murdoch said the question of the succession of his company had been settled "very happily".

The big issue was over who would control News International in the event of his demise. Although he didn't spell out the details, it seems that Murdoch – who is 75 – has backed off a plan to give his two youngest children, born of his third marriage to Wendi Deng, a say in the future of his media empire. It was a proposal believed to have bitterly divided the Murdoch family and raised questions of who would control the company in the years ahead.

In the interview, on the Charlie Rose talk show on American public television, Murdoch added that the difference between him and his eldest son Lachlan – which it was said led to Lachlan's resignation from News Corp a year ago – had also been resolved happily.

Murdoch added that that his older children – there are four altogether from his first two marriages – will control the company when he dies. "If I go under the wheels of a bus tomorrow the four of them will have to decide which of them should head the company."

This is the plan that had been place for many years. A year ago, however, it emerged that Murdoch had proposed that control should be shared with his two youngest children by his marriage in 1999 to Wendi Deng: Grace, who was born in 2001 and Chloe born in 2003.

Some of the other Murdoch children reacted angrily. They saw it as an attempt by their father to renege on part of his divorce settlement with his second wife Anna, to whom he was married for 31 years. In the settlement, she was said to have given up a large portion on of Murdoch's fortune in return for his agreement to let their children retain control of family financial trust.

Some thought the family strain that resulted contributed to Lachlan, his eldest son, resigning from the company – a situation that Murdoch now admits caused him great pain. It also raised questions – and some doubts – about who would control the company in the event of Murdoch's demise. Murdoch did hint that his son James, who is chief executive of BSkyB in the UK, is a likely heir apparent. However the final decision, he reiterated, will be up to the board.

In his television interview Murdoch did not elaborate on how the family dispute has been resolved – although he did make clear that that his two youngest children would share financially from the family stake in the company, even if they may not have any control over any shares. His children, he said, will all get treated equally.

A News Corp spokesman – according to the Wall Street Journal – declined to elaborate further on Murdoch's statements.

Murdoch's statement about the resolution of his family's problems came just a day after it was disclosed that he and Hillary Clinton, a would-be contender for the American Presidency in 2008, had a private breakfast in the News Corp headquarters in New York.

The breakfast, which was described as "chummy", went un-reported in the Murdoch-owned NY Post and there were no photographs.

Earlier Murdoch had hosted a fundraiser for the Democrat Senator. Does the private get-together and the fundraiser mean that Murdoch will support Hillary if she decides to run for President?

That's what many here in the US suspect. On the other hand he is still very friendly and close with at least one of her possible rivals, Senator John McCain of Arizona. Asked if he thought Murdoch is playing both sides of the street, Senator McCain responded diplomatically: "He's a great American."

 

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