The Murdoch struggle for Succession isn't over - and it's sister Elisabeth who ... trends now

The Murdoch struggle for Succession isn't over - and it's sister Elisabeth who ... trends now
The Murdoch struggle for Succession isn't over - and it's sister Elisabeth who ... trends now

The Murdoch struggle for Succession isn't over - and it's sister Elisabeth who ... trends now

Celebration was in the air as Rupert Murdoch, his sons Lachlan and James and executives from his newspaper and broadcast empire took their seats in the private dining room at Hammersmith’s River Cafe.

As ever, the fashionable watering hole of London’s media elites was abuzz with lively mid-week chatter, but even among these sophisticates the presence of the three Murdochs together stilled conversations.

They were in town to mark the success of a deal the media tycoon had struck, yet at the table with its crisp white cloth and freshly cut flowers, family tensions were palpable.

One of the guests that evening recalled the very different tone Murdoch senior adopted when addressing his two sons.

Rupert Murdoch at the Newscorp Summer Party at the Oxo Tower,London with James, Lachlan, and Elisabeth

Rupert Murdoch at the Newscorp Summer Party at the Oxo Tower,London with James, Lachlan, and Elisabeth

Elisabeth, 55, was said to be the sharpest of his children, but Murdoch the establishment disruptor curiously subscribed to the old-fashion traditions of a son with the family name inheriting (Pictured, Elisabeth Murdoch  at The Eurostar Station, Waterloo)

Elisabeth, 55, was said to be the sharpest of his children, but Murdoch the establishment disruptor curiously subscribed to the old-fashion traditions of a son with the family name inheriting (Pictured, Elisabeth Murdoch  at The Eurostar Station, Waterloo)

‘With James there was this sense almost of contempt coming from the older man at what he had to say,’ the guest said. ‘When he talked to Lachlan, on the other hand, there was an altogether different and warmer quality to his responses.

‘I don’t know how many other people picked up on it, there was a lot of drinking going on, but it certainly struck me.’

The guest noted one other thing: a bubbling animosity bordering on hostility between the two brothers separated in age by just 15 months.

Brothers who were once whisper close, but are now also separated by politics and outlook. ‘I kept thinking one of them was going to leap over the table and attack the other,’ he added.

This extraordinary scene was played out some time before the seismic events of this week in which 92-year-old Murdoch announced he was stepping back from his vast empire and handing over control to Lachlan, 52, his elder son and for some time his designated heir apparent. 

At a stroke this bold move appeared to answer a question which has obsessed broadcasters and politicians across the globe for decades: who would succeed Rupert Murdoch as the most powerful media figure in the English-speaking world?

But has the issue finally been resolved? Because many are now wondering if, rather than drawing a line under the machinations, this Succession-style ending will instead trigger the kind of infighting and bitter sibling rivalry that was at the heart of the TV drama based on a billionaire media family eerily similar to the Murdochs.

The suggestion is that the battle for both the soul and the riches of a corporation Rupert spent 70 years building up is, rather than ending, only now beginning.

For if Lachlan’s accession to the throne of The Sun King — as his father was dubbed — was widely expected, it by no means guarantees his long-term security.

Once Murdoch senior is no longer around, leadership of this vast family business is likely to be contested — unless a peaceful accommodation can be reached between Lachlan and James.

And, as we have seen, that prospect seems as far away as ever. In which case it will become a shoot-out between the brothers with the winner being the one who can win the support of their sisters.

Thanks to the way Murdoch structured the ownership of his companies, his four adult children from his first two marriages — Prudence, Lachlan, Elisabeth and James — will eventually inherit his voting control of News Corp and Fox, a conglomerate with assets ranging from the Wall Street Journal, New York Post and the Fox News channel in the U.S. to The Sun, The Times and publishers Harper Collins in Britain.

Flowing from all of that are the proceeds from the old man’s extreme wealth — his vast portfolio of homes on three continents: the condos, penthouses and mansions as well as ranches and vineyards. 

Not to mention an art collection, a sumptuous yacht which has never been publicly identified, cars, and an $84 million jet, the G650, the largest and most luxurious private jet on the market.

There is certainly a lot to go round, from the 340,000-acre Montana ranch and Los Angeles winery to the $50 million New York apartment with floor-to-ceiling glass walls and the Central London home in St James’s. 

This will be a game of homes to put even King Charles’s lavish property interests in the shade.

It is not as though his children are exactly paupers, either — all four received $2 billion five years ago from the sale of Murdoch’s entertainment arm 21st Century Fox to Disney, now widely regarded as one of his slickest coups as he sold at the top of the market.

Each lives in sumptuous style. Lachlan has a $150 million mansion in Los Angeles’s ritzy Bel Air built on the scale of a French chateau, while James has an equally vast pile in Beverly Hills.

Elisabeth, who is married to the Turner Prize-winning artist Keith Tyson, has been building a sprawling property in the Cotswolds, not far from the home of her former husband, PR guru Matthew Freud with whom she lived in a fabulous Grade I-listed Oxfordshire priory.

Prudence, Murdoch’s daughter from his marriage to first wife Patricia, lives quietly in Australia where there are other family properties, including a 25,000-acre sheep and cattle station her father bought in the 1960s before he became a media mogul.

It was, of course, Murdoch himself who set the path for what is now about to unfold between his eldest children (his daughters Chloe and Grace from his third marriage to Wendi Deng have a financial stake but no voting rights in the empire).

James did not attend the 90th birthday celebrations for his father and wasn’t there this summer while the tycoon was wooing the new love in his life, Elena Zhukova. (Pictured, Rupert Murdoch and molecular biologist Elena Zhukova)

James did not attend the 90th birthday celebrations for his father and wasn’t there this summer while the tycoon was wooing the new love in his life, Elena Zhukova. (Pictured, Rupert Murdoch and molecular biologist Elena Zhukova)

He long wanted one of the three children he had with second wife Anna — Lachlan, James and Elisabeth — to take over the company and believed a Darwinian struggle would produce the most capable heir. ‘He pitted his kids against each other their entire lives,’ Vanity Fair

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