The news that James Murdoch, the youngest son of Rupert Murdoch, is to move to New York and take up a new and more senior role within his father’s business has led to speculation that a successor has at last been decided at the media empire.
James has been appointed deputy chief operating officer at News Corporation and will report to the number two at the firm, Chase Carey. He will also become chairman and chief executive of News Corp's international businesses.
Although Murdoch hasn’t publically announced James as his successor, the move must be seen as the clearest sign yet that James will take the top job from his 80-year-old father.
Murdoch has been under pressure to announce a successor with some non-family shareholders pushing for a name just last week.
New York-based Amalgamated Bank, which owns more than one million News Corp shares, filed a lawsuit accusing the media empire of “rampant nepotism”, which analysts viewed as an attempt to force Murdoch to announce a successor.
Many felt the acquisition of Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth’s production company Shine just a few weeks ago might indicate her as the most likely successor. Analysts speculated that as Elisabeth proved her business acumen outside of the huge family-controlled business, she was more likely to be groomed to lead the business after she took a board position at News Corp.
“Although it is very difficult to interpret what Murdoch’s succession plans are, the Shine acquisition looked like a classic case of reverse succession,” said one analyst. He was referring to the practice often seen in family businesses whereby a child succeeds as an entrepreneur outside of the parent company and is then brought back into the parent company to eventually run it. Success outside of the family-controlled business helps to build respect among the employees of the parent company.
But that now appears less likely. The Murdoch family trust owns about 38% of News Corp.