A bitter family feud has erupted between media mogul Rupert Murdoch and his son James in the run-up to a vote that could see both ousted from the board of the multinational News Corp.
There have been times when the pair, who famously appeared together before a British parliamentary committee in July that ended with the older Murdoch getting a pie in the face from a protester, barely have spoken to each other, according to a lengthy profile in Wednesday’s New York Times
The friction between the two is just the latest episode in the family drama that has long engulfed the Murdochs and has cast doubt over who will succeed 80-year-old Rupert when he finally steps down.
Rupert has become increasingly frustrated with James, whom he appointed to oversee his European and Asian interests in 2007, the Times reports. At one point, he ordered James, who lives in London, to move to the United States, telling him, “You’re coming back to New York or you’re out.
“This is one company, not two, and it’s run out of New York,” sources say Rupert told his younger son.
Although James agreed to move, he still hasn’t made the move and visits the Sixth Avenue headquarters in Manhattan only once a month, despite buying a $23 million townhouse on the Upper East Side in March this year.
The rift between the father and son came to a head in 2009 when James decided unilaterally to switch the support of his four London-based newspapers to Britain’s Conservative Party after a decade backing then-ruling Labor, according to the Times. Rupert, who was close to Labor Prime Minister Gordon Brown, was said to be “upset deeply.”
News Corp. shareholders are scheduled to meet Friday in Los Angeles, facing a resolution to remove the Murdochs from the $62 billion company’s board. As the family holds a 40 percent stake, the vote is seen as having little chance of success.
The whole corporation — which counts Fox TV stations, Dow Jones, the Wall Street Journal, New York Post, 20th Century Fox film studio, and Harper Collins book publishing among its U.S. assets — has been shaken by the phone hacking scandal that started on its now-closed British News of the World tabloid. The company initially claimed that the hacking was done by a single rogue reporter, but it has since been revealed that it was widespread practice at the paper.
James and Rupert were called to appear before a British parliamentary committee, but dissatisfaction with their answers prompted the committee to recall James, who is scheduled to give more evidence next month.
Murdoch has four adult children from his first two marriages, as well as daughters aged 9 and 8 from his third. The three children from his second marriage, Elisabeth, 43, Lachlan, 40, and James, 38, have all been seen as his heir apparent at various times over the years.
In recent years, James has been seen as the most likely to take over his father’s mantle, as Lachlan is said to be happy running the company’s Australian operation and Elisabeth has only just returned to the company fold after News Corp. bought her television production company in April.
The top job at News Corp. is still James’s to lose, even though many in the company now question his judgment after the phone hacking scandal, according to the Times.
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