As anointed son Lachlan Murdoch took the stage at Fox Corporation’s annual meeting in Los Angeles on Friday, he touted the potential windfall the company hoped to see from the 2024 US presidential election.
With national and local political races “heating up”, he told the gathering of execs including father Rupert, board members and shareholders that he expected next year’s pivotal election would drive “strong results across our news properties and local stations”.
Less than a year out from the 2024 presidential election, with the warning signs for democracy flashing red and Donald Trump declaring his authoritarian intentions if reelected, the 52-year-old arguably has the power to shape US politics more than any other executive in the country.
But Lachlan is less concerned with preserving democracy than he is with protecting the company’s enormous profit machine Fox News, according to observers.
“He’s focussed on the bottom line, and is more interested in ad spends than undemocratic conduct,” Brian Stelter, the former CNN chief media correspondent and author of Network of Lies: The Epic Saga of Fox News, Donald Trump, and the Battle for American Democracy, told The Independent.
Lachlan claimed victory in the decades-long succession drama over his brother James, but according to biographer Michael Wolff, the brothers haven’t spoken in five years and their relationship has completely broken down.
“They are beyond rivals, I would say they’re enemies,” the author of new book The Fall: The End of Fox News and the Murdoch Dynasty told The Independent.
Lachlan is also effectively auditioning for the approval of his eldest siblings. His sisters Prudence and Elisabethwill have equal voting rights along with Lachlan and James to determine the future of the business once the 92-year-old family patriarch dies. His much younger siblings, Grace and Chloe, daughters of Wendi Deng Murdoch, don’t have voting rights under the terms of the family trust.
“My understanding is that Lachlan and his elder siblings are divided politically and strategically when it comes to the family business — and he and his brother James are poles apart,” Paddy Manning, author of The Successor: The High-Stakes Life of Lachlan Murdoch, told The Independent.
“But they are united when it comes to protecting and looking after their father, with Liz in particular trying to make peace, preserve some normalcy and defend Rupert’s legacy.”
As the US approaches a volatile 2024 election season, Fox News is still dealing with the fallout from its coverage of the last one.
In April, Fox paid out $787.5m for defaming Dominion Voting Systems over lies its hosts told and amplified about the 2020 presidential election being stolen.
The lawsuit revealed how Rupert knew the claims that votes had been flipped from Mr Trump to Joe Biden were bogus.
The Murdochs have been privately critical of Trump’s behaviour, but failed to rein in their on-air talent from spreading lies about the 2020 presidential election.
Fox Corp still faces a wave of litigation related to the Big Lie. Fox is being sued for $2.7bn (£2.2bn) by voting machine company Smartmatic, and faces lawsuits from its own shareholders, and former employees.
“There is a tug of war underway between people of good faith in all parties who want to preserve democracy versus people who want to move in a more authoritarian direction,” said Mr Stelter.
“Fox could either help them do that, or they could help them push back. That is one of the tests of 2024.”
Born in Wimbledon, London, to Rupert and his second wife Anna Murdoch Mann, Lachlan was educated at top private schools in New York and Aspen.