Rupert Murdoch is retiring from the Fox and News Corporation boards, the company announced Thursday morning, making his son Lachlan the sole executive in charge of the global media empire he built from a small local newspaper concern in Australia starting 70 years ago.
The elder Mr. Murdoch will become chairman emeritus of the two companies, the company said in a release.
Mr. Murdoch, 92, had shown no intention to step down or even slow down — even after he named Lachlan as the operating heir to his business empire in 2019, when he sold his vast entertainment holdings to the Walt Disney Company.
Even now, in his emeritus status, he will continue to offer counsel, Lachlan Murdoch said in a statement.
“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,” Lachlan Murdoch, 52, said in a statement the company released Thursday morning.
The elder Mr. Murdoch’s retirement in a sense formalizes the arrangement he had already put in place after the Disney sale, which made his son the day-to-day executive in charge of the two companies at the heart of the Murdoch empire — Fox Corporation and News Corporation.
To wit, the younger Murdoch’s titles — executive chairman and chief executive — remain effectively unchanged, barring the small tweak of losing the “co-” he once shared with his father, who maintained similar titles until Thursday morning.
Though striking a different visage than his father — with tattoos and trademark leather boots — Lachlan Murdoch has so far represented continuity for the family companies. Though the company’s holdings include The Wall Street Journal, Fox broadcasting and Tubi, it has been more defined by the populist conservative voices at Fox News and The Sun tabloid in Britain.
There was no precipitating event for the announcement, beyond that obvious fact that even the healthiest 92-year-old is in his twilight years.
And it has long been said among those who know Mr. Murdoch that he would prefer to retire while still viewed as sharp and active — he was on the Fox lot this week — than as a diminished figure.
But with his announced retirement, Mr. Murdoch was also further solidifying the company beneath his chosen business heir ahead of a looming, family battle for control of the empire after Mr. Murdoch’s eventual death.
Under the terms of the family trust that controls the family’s stake in the empire, each of Mr. Murdoch’s four eldest children — Lachlan Murdoch, Elisabeth Murdoch, James Murdoch and Prudence Murdoch — will have an equal vote on its future following his death; until then, Mr. Murdoch holds the controlling vote.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.