Magazine article Marketing

Raymond Snoddy on Media: NewsCorp Is Almost out of Options

Magazine article Marketing

Raymond Snoddy on Media: NewsCorp Is Almost out of Options

Article excerpt

It takes a certain kind of courage to turn down the right to run one of the world's biggest media empires. But that is exactly what Lachlan Murdoch has just done. While he will remain a director of News Corporation, by wandering off from the centres of power in New York and Los Angeles, he has chosen to absent himself from the succession.

Despite the hundreds of articles written in the aftermath of the formal announcement at the weekend, the only thing missing is any clear sense of why Lachlan took his decision.

The lack of an explanation has allowed the usual conspiracy theories to flourish: he has had a row with the old man over strategy, or some scandal is about to break that we haven't had wind of yet. Possible, but unlikely.

The Australian papers, which are probably best-plugged into this particular story, are convinced that mundane, human matters are involved. Lachlan's wife wants to live in Australia and he is fed up with all the travel. There is also the sense that he might want to put his family before business, clearly something his father has never been able to do.

Talking to Lachlan in the past, it didn't take long to realise he was a chip off the old block. Running NewsCorp in Australia when he was just 24, the philosophy graduate with a taste for competitive rock-climbing was already relaxed about sacking people if it had to be done.

It looked as though he was being groomed for the succession and, indeed, had been pronounced 'first among equals'. His father, who always wanted to found a dynasty if he possibly could, must have had such high hopes for him.

The likelihood now is that Lachlan will follow the example of his sister Elisabeth and try to create a business in his own right - something that has not been delivered on a silver spoon.

So what does all of this mean for the NewsCorp business and its watchful rivals? For all its billions in the background, is this any more than a family soap opera with shades of King Lear?

Who runs NewsCorp, and in what way, are matters of abiding interest to the rest of the media business. Rupert Murdoch has made it clear he has no plans to retire, ever. But he is now 74 and even he cannot last forever, whatever he may think.

The trouble is that Murdoch is rapidly running out of children of serviceable age. …

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