Rupert Murdoch, the 84-year-old mogul who built one of the world’s largest media and entertainment empires, will step down as chief executive of 21st Century Fox and hand the position to his son James, according to a report from Fox News.
The elder Murdoch will remain with the company as executive chairman, while his eldest son Lachlan, 43, will become an executive co-chairman; the three Murdochs will essentially run the company together.
The New York-based company, which includes the 20th Century Fox film studio and the Fox TV network and Fox News Channel, said in a statement that “the matter of succession is on the agenda at our upcoming, regularly scheduled board meeting.” The meeting is scheduled for next week.
Murdoch has long been expected to turn the leadership of Fox to his children, but the timing has always been in doubt. Lachlan and James, who is 42, have always been considered their father’s most promising successors, having taken senior management roles. Murdoch has six children.
The Murdoch family owns about 30 percent of the stock of Fox and controls about 40 percent of its voting rights, ensuring that it can dictate its direction and management. It also controls a related company, News Corp., that was originally formed by Murdoch. Fox was split off from News Corp. in 2013 following the phone-hacking scandal that engulfed the company’s British newspapers. News Corp. continues to own the slow-growing publishing assets; Fox owns the far more profitable entertainment and TV news assets.
In addition to the studio and TV channels, Fox owns the pan-Asian TV channel Star TV and a major stake in the European satellite TV company Sky TV.
Murdoch signaled the potential succession order in March 2014 when he named James as Fox’s co-chief operating officer and Lachlan as nonexecutive co-chairman of News Corp. and 21st Century Fox.
Lachlan had left the family company for several years to manage media ventures of his own, primarily in Australia, where his father, now a naturalized U.S. citizen, began building his empire.
James has been more closely involved in the family’s operations and was in charge of the British newspapers at the time of the hacking scandal in 2011. A 2012 report commissioned by Parliament said he “showed wilful ignorance of the extent of phone-hacking” and said he was “‘guilty of an astonishing lack of curiosity” as reports about phone prying by News Corp. journalists spread. The younger Murdoch subsequently took a position in News Corp.’s New York headquarters.