Lachlan Murdoch appears to have fired back at younger brother James in a memo to Fox staff Thursday in which he praised the network’s news coverage.
James, 47, quit the board of News Corp at the end of last month blaming ‘disagreements over certain editorial content published by the company’s news outlets’.
On Thursday Lachlan, 48, who is the CEO of Fox Corporation and Rupert’s ‘golden child’, told staff: ‘More than ever this year, our audiences turned to us for the best in national and local news.
‘FOX News, which ended fiscal year 2020 with record-breaking viewership, was also the leading primetime network in all of television among total viewers in June, marking the first cable network to ever lead all broadcast networks in ratings for an entire month.’
The brothers have had a tumultuous relationship over the years which had become more frayed than ever of recent after Lachlan was promoted over his younger brother by their father, despite James’ loyalty to the family company.
News Corp is one of the two major media conglomerates owned by the Murdochs, the other being Fox Corporation, which was established after The Walt Disney Company acquired the majority of 21st Century Fox last year.
The two sister companies were formed following the split of the original News Corporation, founded in 1980, in 2013.
James did not go into detail about his differences with the company in his resignation, but has been publicly critical of its news platforms in the past.
The younger brother is known as the more liberal Murdoch brother, while his older sibling Lachlan’s views seem to be more aligned with those of his conservative father.
James’ decision means the board will now consist of ten members, headed by Rupert, 89, and oldest son Lachlan.
In the company wide memo Thursday Lachlan praised the ‘unmistakable power of live sports combined with top entertainment programs made FOX’.
He added: ‘Our local FOX Television Stations increased their news productions and created special town halls to ensure viewers have the information most relevant to their cities and towns.’
In contrast, James has spoken out against his father’s company on a number of occasions, with him and his wife Kathryn slamming the family business for promoting climate change ‘denials’ during the Australian bushfire crisis in January.
The pair released a statement saying they were ‘disappointed’ by the coverage of the fires by Fox News and other News Corp outlets.
‘Kathryn and James’s views on climate are well established and their frustration with some of the News Corp and Fox coverage of the topic is also well known.
‘They are particularly disappointed with the ongoing denial among the news outlets in Australia given obvious evidence to the contrary,’ their statement read.
The ‘denials’ were in reference to allegations arsonists and not climate change were to blame for the destructive wildfires.
His comments were perceived as ‘unprecedented’ and sparked speculation of a feud within the family since he rarely speaks publicly about his role in the business.
James also opened up about his professional break from the family business in a revealing interview with the New Yorker last year.
He found himself out of work when Fox merged with Disney early last year, but also $2billion richer thanks to his shares in the company.
This seems to have caused some friction between father and son and when asked if he had recently spoken to his former boss, James said: ‘There are periods of time when we do not.’
In 2019 James noted things were great post-Fox, saying: ‘I just feel very lucky to have the opportunity at this point to make a clean break, and literally have an empty slate.
He was even last year reportedly looking to set up a $1billion new project including a liberal news outlet, in stark contrast to his father’s Fox News.
In March it was further suggested he pumped money into start-ups looking to combat fake news.
His firm Lupa Systems was said to have teamed up with Betaworks to create a ‘more sustainable news ecosystem’.
Rupert designed his companies to benefit his family, making certain that he and his children always had control, meaning that his children and generations to follow would be taken care of financially.
But the media tycoon has not left his children with a plan for the future of his media empire, refusing to officially name an heir despite making no secret of his preferred child.
It is not his oldest child Prudence or the next in line Elisabeth, who has found incredible success outside the family business in emerging media markets.
It is not James, the son who has stood by his side for decades and weathered the fallout from the 2011 hacking scandal at News of the World and the 2016 sexual assault scandal at Fox News.
It is Lachlan, Murdoch’s older son, who is the ‘golden child’ according to multiple sources.
And the empire looks to be his for the taking – but it is not clear if he is interested in the job.
The family company and its future were the focus of a New York Times piece last year that provided an in depth look at the mogul’s two sons while completely ignoring the lives and accomplishments of his four daughters.
By some accounts, Murdoch’s heirs are now battling behind the scenes for control of the empire, with the two top contenders appearing to be his sons James and Lachlan.
Others claim however most of the children have soured on the notion of taking over from their father.
The media mogul is the father of six children, who range in age from 61 to 16. The oldest is Prudence, who is Murdoch’s only child with his first wife, Australian model Patricia Booker.
She has held various positions in her father’s companies but now lives in Australia where she is largely focused on raising her three children.
Prue, as she is called by her family, has made it clear she is not interested in taking the reins and did not even attend college after graduating from Dalton in New York.
That does not mean she would oppose seeing her second husband, Alasdair MacLeod, move up the ranks at News Corp – despite her protests about him working with her father, or her offspring – who are Murdoch’s three oldest grandchildren – landing nice roles at the company.
But as Vanity Fair reported back in 2008, Prue is in many ways the one link the family has to reality.
‘She gets away with saying what the others won’t, even things that the others won’t think, and she takes the various family members much less seriously than they do themselves,’ reported the magazine.
‘This involves, not least of all, seeing her three oldest half-siblings – Elisabeth, Lachlan, and James – as, each in his or her way, master-race prototypes.’
It is those three who have long seem poised to battle it out for their father’s media empire – Elisabeth, 50, Lachlan, 47, and James, 46.
All three work in media, with Elisabeth currently experiencing success with Vertical Networks, a startup that provides app-based series that are produced to be viewed in cellular devices.
The relationship between Lachlan and his father has run hot and cold over the years, but that all changed back in 2014 when Murdoch’s older son returned to New York to work for News Corp. Now, he is the Chairman and CEO of the Fox Corporation.
James, the youngest of the three, was the most loyal, staying by his father’s side and joining News Corp shortly after he dropped out of Harvard.
That devotion was tested however when Murdoch elected to promote Lachlan over James after he return to work in the US following an extended stint in Australia.
The brothers already strained relationship only got worse when Lachlan informed James of this decision over lunch.
James even briefly quit the company, but then ultimately decided to return before then exiting for good.
Murdoch’s youngest children are Grace, 18, and Chloe, 16, the New York-based daughters born to Murdoch’s third wife Wendi Deng.
Chloe is currently attending an Ivy League college while her sister attends private school in Manhattan.
The ambitions of the two teenagers are unknown, but their fiercely intelligent mother has no doubt seen to it that the two get not one bit less than their older half-siblings.
James, meanwhile, is a longtime environmental advocate. His wife Kathryn works at the Clinton Climate Initiative and the pair are known contributors to the Clinton Foundation.
The couple last month endorsed presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden by donating $615,000 each to his campaign after previously donating to former candidate Pete Buttigieg.
Rupert and Lachlan said in a statement: ‘We’re grateful to James for his many years of service to the company. We wish him the very best in his future endeavors.’
James previously served as the CEO of 21st Century Fox but stepped down following the sale. Since then, he has worked at the helm of the investment fund Lupa Systems.
News Corp also publishes major papers in Australia and the UK and owns the HarperCollins book publisher.