The announcement of Rupert Murdoch’s decision to step back from his corporate leadership roles in his media empire sent ripples through the business world. His son, Lachlan Murdoch, is poised to take the reins in November 2023, marking a significant generational shift in leadership.
Thank you to Edward Segal for quoting me in his Forbes article about Lachlan Murdoch’s succession.
In this post, we’ll dive into more perspectives on the potential pitfalls when transitioning to a new generation of leaders.
Leadership Succession In Times of Crisis
Rupert Murdoch devoted seven decades to the media industry, and his recent departure at the age of 98 marks a significant turning point for both the media empire and the Murdoch family. One of the key focal points during this transitional phase revolves around the legal and ethical dilemmas that have surrounded Rupert Murdoch throughout his career.
Fox News found itself entangled in defamation lawsuits arising from its coverage of the US elections. In Britain, the News International phone hacking scandal was a contentious issue involving Rupert Murdoch’s now-defunct News of the World and other British newspapers under his ownership. In Australia, media outlets under Rupert Murdoch’s control advocated for the repeal of the nation’s carbon tax and played a significant role in influencing the ousting of several prime ministers whose policy agendas he opposed.
Now, these challenges will be inherited by Lachlan Murdoch, who assumes responsibility for managing their repercussions. Lachlan will need to ensure that his companies execute and uphold journalistic standards, fact-checking protocols, and ethical reporting practices.
“The manner in which these legal matters are handled will undoubtedly have a profound impact on the credibility and public perception of media outlets owned by the Murdoch family.”
Staying The Course
In 1999, Rupert Murdoch told the Guardian the consensus is that Lachlan will take over, saying “He will be the first among equals, but they will all have to prove themselves first.” Lachlan did just that, getting the nod to become News Corp chairman and continue as chief executive officer of Fox Corp.
“In any succession, next generation leaders want to evolve the business and make their mark. Especially in a family led business, they are often told, “Here are the keys. Now don’t mess it up.”
The potential fear involving the other adult Murdoch children who are no longer in the business – James, Elizabeth, and Prudence – is that they would shift the company strategy in a totally different direction. Because Lachlan had many years of experience being groomed as Rupert’s successor, it could be assumed that he will not make dramatic changes to the business and stay the course.
The Murdoch family transition provides an interesting case study in succession planning, and why it’s important to prepare for leadership transition and communicate expectations for next generation success.