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James Murdoch resigns from News Corp board

A joint statement from Rupert Murdoch and Lachlan Murdoch wished Mr Murdoch “the very best”.

“We’re grateful to James for his many years of service to the company. We wish him the very best in his future endeavours,” the pair, who are co-chairman and chief executive officers, said.

James Murdoch's resignation letter. 

James Murdoch’s resignation letter. 

Mr Murdoch and his wife Kathryn Hufschmid, who has worked for the Clinton Climate Initiative, have previously spoken publicly about their concerns with News Corp’s editorial direction. In September last year Mr Murdoch told The New Yorker he strongly disagreed with many of Fox News’ views and admitted that there were times where he and his father did not talk. Fox News backed US President Donald Trump’s campaign and regularly espouses conservative views.

In October last year Mr Murdoch told Vanity Fair that there was an urgent need for solutions on climate change, adequate health care and income inequality. When News Corp’s local news arm, which also publishes The Daily Telegraph and The Herald Sun, was criticised globally for its coverage of the Australian bushfire crisis in January, Mr Murdoch broke ranks and accused the global media empire of promoting climate denialism.

News Corp’s local newspapers have previously been accused by former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd and former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Turnbull of running partisan campaigns against them. Lachlan Murdoch is close to former conservative Liberal prime minister Tony Abbott, according to people who know him.

A spokesperson for Mr Murdoch and his wife told The Daily Beast in January that the couple were “particularly disappointed” in the bushfire coverage by News Corp’s Australian news outlets.

James Murdoch (right) and his father, Rupert, have had a tumultuous professional relationship, while his brother Lachlan (left) has long been regarded as Rupert’s favourite.

James Murdoch (right) and his father, Rupert, have had a tumultuous professional relationship, while his brother Lachlan (left) has long been regarded as Rupert’s favourite.Credit:AP

Columns by Melbourne writer Andrew Bolt and Sky commentator (and The Australian Financial Review columnist) Rowan Dean in the tabloids and former ASX chairman Maurice Newman in The Australian have described climate change as a “cult” and “a socialist plot”.

In a broadcast on News Corp-owned Sky News, Bolt criticised the “constant stream of propaganda” on the ABC about the climate crisis.

“Kathryn and James’ 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,” the spokesperson said in January.

Three former executives of News Corp, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age at the time that Mr Murdoch’s statement was unsurprising given his views on climate change and his difficult relationship with his brother, Lachlan, are well known.

“James and Lachlan are ideologically apart and will continue to be,” one of the former executives said, while another said Mr Murdoch was looking to intentionally distance himself from the scrutiny his family was receiving. But the timing of Mr Murdoch’s abrupt exit on Friday is interesting given the fast-approaching US election.

Several weeks ago Mr Murdoch and his wife each contributed more than US$615,000 to a fundraising committee for former Vice President Joseph Biden, who is hoping to fight for the presidency against US President Donald Trump at the upcoming election. His resignation also follows the release of the BBC documentary The Rise of the Murdoch Dynasty.

Ironically several people familiar with the family’s thinking believe Mr Murdoch has left at a time when the company is subtly watering down its support of Mr Trump. Some of its key mastheads including The Australian are also adopting a more centrist political approach, according to people familiar with the matter.


Whatever the motive, James’ decision puts an end to his tumultuous professional relationship with his father and brother Lachlan, who has long been considered Rupert’s favourite.

James has fallen in and out of favour with his father over the years but until 2011, was considered the heir apparent to the family’s media empire. According to people familiar with the Murdoch family, James is also considered to be most like his father.

“James is like his father, News Corp people believe,” Michael Wolff wrote in 2008. “He’s aggressive, implacable, focused, remote, fit, precise. His father is obviously proud, even perhaps slightly afraid of him.”

But the disastrous News of The World scandal in 2011, which occurred while James was running News Corp’s holdings in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, rattled his position in the family empire and challenged his relationship with his father. While he was later appointed chief executive of 21st Century Fox, his older brother’s position as family heir was made apparent in 2018 following the announcement of the family’s $US52.4 billion sale of 21st Century Fox to Walt Disney, when he was named chief executive of what would be known as Fox Corporation.

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