James Murdoch, the youngest son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, severed his last corporate link to the family business on Friday, resigning from the board of directors of News Corp. due to “disagreements over certain editorial content” and “certain other strategic decisions.” He had already left Fox Corp., the television and entertainment side of the family business, where he served as chief executive—a position his older brother Lachlan now holds. The younger Murdoch is still connected to the family through the Murdoch Family Trust, where he remains a beneficiary. But his exit from News Corp. signals an escalation in the ideological dissent at play within the family empire. “A private rupture over editorial direction goes very, very public,” wrote NPR’s David Folkenflik.
According to CNN’s Brian Stelter, James Murdoch’s break from the family’s publishing arm—which includes papers such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post—was “not the result of any abrupt action within New York” but rather something that had been months in the making for the billionaire’s son, who has semi-publicly clashed with his family’s conservative political views and media coverage. In January, as the family’s Australian media outlets published content questioning the scientific basis of climate change during the country’s worst wildfire season in decades, Murdoch and his wife released a statement describing themselves as “particularly disappointed with the ongoing denial among the news outlets in Australia given obvious evidence to the contrary.” (Some Fox News hosts blamed the wildfires on rogue arsonists.) The statement was seen as an “extraordinary public rebuke.”
In addition to generously donating to environmental initiatives, the younger, left-leaning Murdoch has invested in organizations targeting issues like fake news and electoral interference. James and his wife, who have been critical of the Trump administration, have donated to the presidential campaigns of mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, and most recently, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. James was “testing the proposition of making change from the inside” by serving on the News Corp. board, a source told Stelter earlier this year. “Friday’s move indicates that he has given up on that proposition.”
James’s next steps, however, are still murky. Back in September, my colleague Joe Pompeo reported that he was contemplating “invest[ing] in a handful of efforts” in media, tech, and other areas. “I think he’s looking forward to getting on with it,” a source told Pompeo. “He’s energized.” In April, it was rumored that one of those investments would be in a liberal-leaning news outlet—presumably one that would take the opposite tack to his family’s networks. At the time, James Murdoch couldn’t be reached for comment. But if this newest rift is any indication, those plans may have just accelerated.
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