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The Successor: The High-Stakes Life of Lachlan Murdoch - Book Review

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by Marina Marangos (subscribe)
Published January 28th 2023

If you are a person who is interested in world affairs and how opinions are formed then this book will appeal to you. Paddy Manning is an Australian journalist who began his career in 2004 on the business desk of The Australian - one of the flagships of the Murdoch empire. He credits a lot of his success to the colleagues who trained him and taught him how to be a good "journo".And while this biography is unauthorised, it nevertheless has all the hallmarks of a well-researched and carefully constructed account of Lachlan Murdoch, the successor to the Murdoch Empire. He analyses his business and private life and his political views and expressed comments. It is a riveting account of his life and his position as well as his stance as a successor to this vast business entity and his attitude to how it should be developed and promoted.

The book documents mainly his adult life and his career in the family set up. He is the oldest son of Rupert Murdoch and his ex-wife Anna. He grew up with all the privileges in the world and presumed that one day he would be the successor - whether with or without the support or collaboration of his siblings. But he was never chained to his desk, not particularly visible in day-to-day management which he was quite happy to leave to others and ultimately made some interesting choices that saw him distance himself from the family business for a number of years as he set out to make it on his own in Australia. He, perhaps more than his siblings, felt that Australia was home and wanted to establish not only his business life here but also his personal one with his wife Sarah O'Hare and their three children.

What however is the drawcard to this book is seeing his role and influence in the various business entities that the Murdochs controlled. He starts his professional life off in the Courier Mail in Brisbane. The suggestion was that Lachlan was sent there to toughen him up and get him ready for the succession. He made good friends in Brisbane and learnt a great deal. He went on to various posts within News Corp in the US but in 2005 he fell out with his father and some of the heads in the corporation and he resigned setting up his own business in Australia called Illyria which had mixed success- there were many other big events going on in London, the phone hacking scandal, Rupert's marriage to Wendi Deng coming to an end which made Lachlan eventually come to terms with " doing something for his father" and he came back into the fold in 2013. Thereafter Lachlan is given authority and control in various ways, though it was also felt that Rupert was in the background and still able to determine policy and mergers in spite of his age.

What is illuminating is Lachlan's own politics compared to that of his father and the realisation that though he keeps out of the limelight, his lean is to the right of Rupert and dangerously so following the way Fox News reported on Trump's election, Covid and the January 6th storming of the Capitol. Many of the powerful news anchors were not reigned in or held to account for the disinformation and falsehoods that they spread which lead to James Murdoch resigning and saying proprietors were as culpable as politicians who "know the truth but choose to propagate lies."

Through most of the controversy surrounding Fox News Lachlan refrained from going on the record. Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says " this is a deliberate strategy on Lachlan's part" which he argues is unacceptable. In the years that Lachlan has taken over as Fox Corporation CEO Fox News has become more profitable but also more extreme. That is one of the reasons for such terrible polarisation in the US. The Murdoch press has a stranglehold on the Australian press so knowing how these people operate and the reasons they take for their many business decisions should concern us all.
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Where: Sold at all bookshops around Australia
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