NEW YORK – When Lachlan Murdoch, the eldest son of media titan Rupert Murdoch, was named sole chairman of News Corp on Thursday, the announcement put aside immediate questions about who will lead News Corp and Fox Corp: a sprawling media empire that includes some of the most powerful brands in the world.
But the board transition is not a solution to another potential power play that could take place after Rupert Murdoch’s death, as outlined in a document called the Murdoch Family Trust.
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The Reno, Nevada-based trust outlines a scenario in which a potential acquisition could occur. It is the vehicle through which the elder Murdoch controls News Corp and Fox Corp, through a roughly 40 percent stake in each company’s voting stock. Murdoch also owns a small number of shares in the companies outside the trust.
Following Rupert’s death, the voting shares of News Corp and Fox Corp will be transferred from Murdoch to his four adult children – Prudence, Elisabeth, Lachlan and James – creating a scenario where three of the children could outvote a fourth, potentially creating a battle on the future of the companies, while Lachlan Murdoch heads Fox Corp and is the sole chairman of News Corp.
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The Murdoch Family Trust has eight votes: four of which are controlled by Murdoch, and the remaining four are controlled by the four children from his first two marriages. Murdoch’s youngest daughters Chloe and Grace, from his third wife Wendi Deng, have no voting rights in the trust.
Upon succession, the four older children will inherit equally Murdoch’s voting shares in the trust, said Alice Enders, head of research at Enders Analysis.
According to a January 2023 Financial Times report, in addition to shares in News Corp and Fox, the trust also includes the Cruden family farm near Melbourne and Murdoch’s art collection.
Fox and News Corp operate a dual share system, with Class A shares without voting rights and Class B shares with voting rights. The Fox and News Corp shares owned by Murdoch’s children through the trust are a combination of both share classes.
“It is not a real succession scenario at the moment,” says Enders. “It’s more in the future I would say.”