Los Angeles: James Murdoch is cutting his ties to the family empire led by father Rupert Murdoch after clashing over its editorial direction.
The 47-year-old, once in a position to lead Rupert’s sprawling media operations, resigned from the board of News Corp., citing differences of opinion with the publishing company, which owns the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post.
“My resignation is due to disagreements over certain editorial content published by the company’s news outlets and certain other strategic decisions,” James said in a resignation letter released by the company Friday. His representative declined to say more.
James, Rupert’s younger son, was chief executive officer of the family’s main media business — then called 21st Century Fox — until last year, but he stepped down when most of its assets were sold to Walt Disney Co.
Since then, he and his family have increasingly gone their separate ways — and he’s become more critical about the conservative-leaning editorial direction at News Corp. and Fox’s news channel.
In recent weeks, tensions have grown over the Wall Street Journal’s opinion section, known for editorials promoting free markets and conservative principles. Earlier this month, journalists at the paper demanded a clearer distinction between news and opinion. They said they were worried about the opinion section’s accuracy and transparency and didn’t want readers to think it was straight news.
The editorial board responded later that week in a note to readers, saying it wouldn’t “wilt under cancel-culture pressure.”
“As long as our proprietors allow us the privilege to do so, the opinion pages will continue to publish contributors who speak their minds,” the editorial board said. “And these columns will continue to promote the principles of free people and free markets, which are more important than ever in what is a culture of growing progressive conformity and intolerance.”
James has said he doesn’t watch Fox News, and he’s taken issue with News Corp.’s coverage of wildfires for downplaying global warming. Last year, he praised Democratic presidential contender Pete Buttigieg and recently donated $615,000 to a fund supporting the campaign of Joe Biden, the party’s presidential nominee.
James is based in New York, while his father and brother spend much of their time in Los Angeles. He and his five siblings stood to get about $2 billion each from a family trust after the Disney deal.
His private investment firm, Lupa Systems, which takes its name from the Latin word for a she wolf, has invested in a number of media and technology firms — from a Norwegian drone company to the Void, which puts virtual-reality experiences in malls.
He also seems keen on pursuing investments that might counter the more conservative agenda of the family’s main media outlets. He’s invested in Betalab, an investment firm trying to “fix the internet,” including addressing what some have called fake news.
James was already wealthy. After dropping out of Harvard University, he founded a hip-hop record label that was bought by his father, bringing him into the corporate fold. He also owns about $15 million of Tesla Inc., where he’s been a board member since 2017, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
To many, the familial back-and-forth recalls the HBO hit “Succession,” based loosely on the Murdochs. Many fans already debate which character is based on which brother.
In a statement, Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch, who serve as News Corp.’s co-chairmen, said they wished James “the very best in his future endeavors.”
“We’re grateful to James for his many years of service to the company,” they said. – Bloomberg