3 min read

The Real-Life "Succession"

A 91-year-old billionaire sits atop a global media empire, while his adult children vie to control the family company in the next generation.
The Real-Life "Succession"

"It sounds like the plot of the HBO series Succession," writes Terry Gross for NPR, "but New York Times journalist Jim Rutenberg says the real-life drama involving Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch and his children, Lachlan, James, Elisabeth and Prudence, rivals anything a screenwriter could dream up."

Gross interviewed Jim Rutenberg, a consulting producer on the new CNN+ documentary series, The Murdochs: Empire of Influence, which is based on an investigative piece that he wrote with Times reporter Jonathan Mahler in 2019. Rutenberg says "the next few years could help determine the direction of the Fox News empire."

In the Murdoch family succession battle, Fox News and democracy hang in the balance (Terry Gross - NPR)

Excerpt from NPR: "There's an interesting thing about the way Rupert set up the company," Rutenberg says. "It's a family board with these children ... Rupert cannot be outvoted [but] once Rupert dies, each child has an equal vote ... and the company could conceivably be taken in a different direction. Fox News is hands down the number one news network in this country, and it got even bigger under Trump. If Trump gave Rupert anything, it was the lifeblood of his business, which was ratings, which equaled revenue."
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Rupert named his eldest son, Lachlan, as CEO of the Fox Corp. in 2019 and is rumored to be more conservative than his father, while siblings are reportedly troubled by the move toward Trumpism by Fox News.

Lachlan Murdoch, after being passed over as CEO in 2005 and resigning his role in the company, was seen as an "ambivalent heir even as he made his way back to family business and rose again through the ranks," writes Sarah Ellison and Josh Dawsey for The Washington Post. "The image remained of a passive Gen-Xer who kept his politics quiet and his ambitions subservient to those of the swaggering conservative billionaire dad. Until last week."

Lachlan Murdoch, once the ambivalent Fox heir, makes his views clear (Sarah Ellison & Josh Dawsey - The Washington Post)

Excerpt from The Washington Post: In a speech in Sydney celebrating a new initiative at a conservative think tank, Lachlan Murdoch — now 50 and the co-chairman of the family’s News Corp., which owns the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, and chairman and CEO of Fox Corp. — took swipes at the “elites” who he believes disdain traditional values. He also blasted governments for imposing mandates and business shutdowns to control the pandemic and alleged conspiratorially that “practically all the media suppressed the discovery of Hunter Biden’s laptop."
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In a related story, Warner Bros. Discovery, the newly-combined company that includes CNN parent WarnerMedia and Discovery, is shutting down CNN+ and the subscription streaming service will cease operations on April 30, according to Axios.

CNN+ is reportedly "being shuttered due to a strategic misalignment between Discovery executives and CNN executives," writes Sara Fischer & Erin Doherty for Axios. "CNN and its new parent disagreed over whether the investment made sense long-term."

Warner Bros. Discovery is shutting down CNN+ (Sara Fischer & Erin Doherty - Axios)

Excerpt from Axios: CNN's original plan was for CNN+ to become profitable in four years by investing $1 billion into the service. A profitable service would've diversified CNN's revenue long-term around a digital asset outside of its website, increasing its valuation and potential, executives believe. But Discovery thought a separate subscription app for news didn't make sense for its own strategy long-term, and worried about the business economics around the launch. CNN had already spent $300 million to launch the service.
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