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Murdoch, Lachlan 1971–

Lachlan Murdoch
1971

Deputy chief operating officer, News Corporation Limited

Nationality: British, but considers himself Australian.

Born: September 8, 1971, in London, United Kingdom.

Education: Princeton University, BA, 1994.

Family: Son of Rupert Murdoch (chairman and chief executive of News Corporation) and Anna (Torv) Murdoch-Mann (author); married Sarah O'Hare (model).

Career: Queensland Newspapers, 19941995, general manager; News Limited, 19951997, deputy chief executive; 19971999, chairman and chief executive officer; News Corporation, 19992000, senior vice president; 2000, deputy chief operating officer.

Address: News Corporation, 1211 Avenue of Americas, 8th Floor, New York, New York 10036; 2 Holt Street, Sydney, Australia, NS 2010; http://www.newscorp.com.

As 2004 began, Lachlan Murdoch continued to generate speculation about whether he would one day become heir of News Corporation Limited, the multinational company ruled by his father, CEO Rupert Murdochcomprising newspapers, books, magazines, movies, music, and television. With the elder Murdoch showing no signs of retiring, Lachlan Murdoch rose to deputy COO and made his mark on the New York Post along with Fox Broadcasting. The scrutiny that comes with a famous surname, along with justified speculation from analysts about whether he was capable of leading News Corporation, made Murdoch an easy target for criticism among industry insiders and analysts. The stakes were nothing less than control of one of the most influential media empires in the world.

LEARNING THE ROPES

News Corporation is among the largest media corporations, though with 2003 revenues of about $20 billion, it lags far behind Time Warner and Walt Disney. The company's 82 percent owned Fox Entertainment Group includes a spate of operations, such as Fox Broadcasting (consisting of the Fox TV network's 200 U.S. affiliates), Twentieth Century Fox (which produces movies and TV programs and maintains a large programming library), and a 34 percent stake in the DIRECTV parent Hughes Electronics. News Corporation also owns 35 U.S. television stations as well as cable and satellite operations in Asia, Australia, Europe, and Latin America.

Rupert Murdoch's vast empire created for Lachlan Murdoch the opportunity to learn the business one asset at a time. Lachlan Murdoch began working in the business as a printing press cleaner on weekends when he was in high school in the United States. Fresh from Princeton University, where he earned a bachelor of arts in philosophy, he moved to Australia in 1994 to begin his training in the family-owned Queensland Newspapers.

At first glance he seemed an unlikely corporate type, let alone a corporate successor. A rock climber with a lizard tattoo, he traveled around Sydney on a pricey motorcycle. Ever aware of rumors and speculation that his role in his father's company was more a result of bloodline than business savvy, he ultimately chose to tone down his image. In his own words, "I think because of my fatheror my relationship with himthe thing I have to do is be extra cautious and to prove myself. I have to prove I'm serious" (Independent, May 7, 1995). Opportunity to do just that arrived in 1997, when he was promoted to chief executive of News Limited.

But his time in Australia was not without controversy. Still green, Murdoch found himself in the midst of the Super League debaclea wayward attempt by News Limited to create the rugby Super League, which nearly killed the sport's popularity and cost the company an estimated $200 million.

HEIR APPARENT

The most formative promotion of Murdoch's career occurred in 1999, when he arrived in the United States to take over the company's print operations, including the New York Post and the Harper Collins Publishing Group. This ambitious step placed an even bigger spotlight on Murdoch, who had previously enjoyed relative obscurity in Australia. The new position also earned Murdoch admission into the company's inner circle, the office of the chairman, placing him in direct contact with the company's top six executives.

Around that time, his father told an interviewer that it was the consensus of "the kids" that Lachlanthe middle childwould one day take over the company. Rupert Murdoch has long expressed a preference for Lachlan to succeed him in the top spot at News Corporation. In October 2000 Lachlan Murdoch took another step toward achieving that goal when he was named News Corporation's deputy chief operating officer.

As Lachlan Murdoch's clout increased, so did the comparisons to his father. Mitch Stern, chairman of Fox Television Stations and Twentieth Television, said that Murdoch was "a lot like [Rupert]. He's engaging and curious. Intelligent. And, I'd sayand this is where they stand out from the rest of the industrya gentleman with a high sense of integrity. Pretty good drinker; good taste in wine. The kind of person you welcome into a meeting. He comes in with his sleeves rolled up. And you're into it" (New York Observer, November 24, 2003).

In February 2002 Murdoch was elected to the Fox board of directors, and in May 2002 he was named publisher of the New York Post. By then he had implemented important changes, including cutting the paper's single-copy price from 50 cents to 25 cents in 2000. He also led the construction of a $250 million production plant in the Bronx, New York, that allowed quality color printing.

In November 2003 Murdoch's brother, James, was named the chief executive of British Sky Broadcasting, a firm with more than $5 billion a year in revenues (News Corporation owned more than 35 percent of Sky News in 2002). This move caused some to speculate that James Murdoch had usurped his brother's place as Rupert Murdoch's presumed heir. Furthermore, it prompted increased concerns from analysts, who wondered whether either child should be the chosen one. Said Uri D. Landesman, a portfolio manager for Federated Investors, a major investor in News Corporation, "Look, the easiest way for a company to handle family is just say 'no family.' That way you don't have to make decisions about whether the kid is ready or not. But that is obviously not going to happen here" (New York Times, December 28, 2003).

ADDED RESPONSIBILITIES

In early 2004 Murdoch added another project to his growing responsibilities: filling the void left by the sudden exit of Fox TV network's chairman, Sandy Grushow. The shake-up placed Murdoch at the helm of the network, which made an estimated $400 million profit in 2003, thanks to such stalwart shows as American Idol and The Simpsons. It was a crucial test: Fox began 2004 in a ratings slump. The second edition of Joe Millionaire garnered awful ratings while an American Idol spinoff was killed before it ever debuted.

Murdoch seemed determined to live up to the biblical edict that the original John D. Rockefeller was fond of quoting: "To him who much is given, much is required" (Luke 12:48, Oxford Study Edition: "The New English Bible," Oxford University Press, 1976, chpt. 4). He appeared neither to have shied away from major responsibility nor to have become distracted by the illusions of show business or the uncertainties of the future. In 2003 Rupert Murdoch had this to say: "I look after my health pretty well, and I intend to be the active driver of the company for a long time yet, probably to the frustration of all my relatives" (New York Times, December 28, 2003).

See also entry on News Corporation Limited in International Directory of Company Histories.

sources for further information

Kirkpatrick, David, "Murdoch Gets a Jewel. Who'll Get His Crown?" New York Times, December 28, 2003.

Milliken, Robert, "Lachlan Murdoch; Heir to the Sun and Sky," Independent (London), May 7, 1995.

Pappu, Sridhar, "Lachlan Murdoch, Spiky Punk Heir Right for Post?" New York Observer, November 24, 2003.

Salamon, Julie, "Television: An American Story; A Family That Tried to Be Both Rich and Good" New York Times, October 1, 2000.

Tim Halpern

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