Media titan Rupert Murdoch is stepping down from his position as Chair of Fox and News Corp, the Wall Street Journal, which Murdoch owns, reported Thursday.
The 92-year-old’s son, Lachlan Murdoch, who has served last co-chair of News Corp in 2014, will take over as sole Chair of that company and will continue in his position as Executive Chair and CEO of Fox Corp.
“For my entire professional life, I have been engaged daily with news and ideas, and that will not change. But the time is right for me to take on different roles,” Rupert Murdoch wrote in a memo to staff.
Murdoch inherited a small Australian newspaper business and built it into a media empire over the course seven decades, acquiring or creating television, publishing and film entities. His newspapers include the Times of London and the New York Post as well as the Wall Street Journal.
He launched the Fox Network in the mid-1980s, with two television shows premiering in prime time in 1987: “Married with Children” and “The Tracy Ullman Show”—the latter of which spun off the first animated prime-time series in decades, “The Simpsons,” which has since become the longest-running prime time TV series of all time, having aired more than 750 episodes as it enters its 35th season this fall.
But it was the Fox News Channel that reshaped not only cable news but arguably the U.S. political landscape with its conservative commentary—for better or ill. This year, Fox agreed to pay $787.5 million to settle a defamation suit brought by Dominion Voting Systems, in which several of the news channel’s commentators figured prominently in spreading disinformation about the 2020 Presidential election’s results.
Fox News is further facing a $2.7 billion lawsuit brought by Smartmatic voting systems. Any trial in that case could potentially still be months away.
However this is not the first time a Murdoch outlet made global headlines over a legal entanglement. The British tabloid News of the World was forced to shut down in 2011 after it was accused of making payments to police and hacking the phones of celebrities, law makers, royalty, murder victims and other figures in the news. Murdoch publisher News International agreed to make millions of dollars’ worth of payments to injured parties amid the scandal.
In his retirement memo to staff, however, Murdoch remained unbent about what he sees as his continuing battle over freedom of speech and though, writing, “Elites have open contempt for those who are not members of their rarefied class. Most of the media is in cahoots with those elites, peddling political narratives rather than pursuing the truth.”
Murdoch also informed the staff, “Our companies are in robust health, as am I. We have every reason to be optimistic about the coming years.”