Thursday, February 2, 2023
The Murdoch family trust: how the scions could battle for control
Rupert Murdoch, known as one of the most powerful men in the news, spent most of his career facing the threat to his control of News Corp in the form of his family. His sisters, three Australian women who have spent their lives away from the limelight, long could out-vote Murdoch. While they found a business arrangement that worked for the siblings, Murdoch eventually saw the advantage of buying them out in the 1990s. Now, a similar dilemma of succession faces the next generation of the family.
Murdoch’s eldest son, Lachlan, is now chief executive of Fox Corporation and executive co-chair of News Corp and finds himself in the same position his father was in decades earlier. Younger brother, James Murdoch, was overlooked for the succession of Fox News and is now largely estranged from his brother. At this time, it is uncertain where the loyalties of their sisters, Prudence MacLeod and Elisabeth Murdoch, fall.
Sources close to the family have told reporters that after Rupert passes, his shares will be dispersed among the four adult children. They believe there could be a scenario where it becomes three against one, with Lachlan closing control over the family business. This could be largely due to differences in political opinions.
The Murdoch trusts have spanned nine decades and five generations. Patriarch, Keith Murdoch, established a high standard for complexity and tax efficiency by establishing eight inter vivid settlements for his children in the 1930s. Rupert had embraced this same structure with his own descendants. The core assets of the trust remain consistent, involving a family farm near Melbourne, Australia, Rupert’s art collection, and shares in Murdoch holding companies.
In Rupert’s 1999 divorce from his second wife, Anna, the divorce settlement established unbreakable terms to hand down Murdoch’s wealth as Anna fought for the assets to be put in a trust for Murdoch’s four eldest children. In 2006, Murdoch’s two youngest daughters were taken into the trust, but as beneficiaries, and carry no votes.
For more information see Alex Barker “The Murdoch family trust: how the scions could battle for control”, Financial Times, January 8, 2023.
Special thanks to Joel C. Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) and Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.