Rupert Murdoch, the Australian press baron who reshaped conservative media in his image, plans to step down as chairman of Fox Corp. and News Corp.
He will become chairman emeritus of the two corporations, Fox Corp. announced in a news release Thursday. His older son, Lachlan Murdoch, will become the sole chairman of both firms.
"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," Murdoch, 92, said in a six-paragraph message to employees Thursday.
"In my new role, I can guarantee you that I will be involved every day in the contest of ideas," he wrote.
Fox Corp. said in its news release that Murdoch will formally resign at a shareholder meeting in November.
“I congratulate my father on his remarkable 70-year career,” Lachlan Murdoch said in a statement.
“We thank him for his vision, his pioneering spirit, his steadfast determination, and the enduring legacy he leaves to the companies he founded and countless people he has impacted,” he added.
The mogul's resignation marks the end of one of the most storied and controversial careers in modern media. Murdoch built a small Australian newspaper business into a sprawling corporate empire that, at its height, included a movie studio, a television network and a roster of cable channels.
The media titan's most lasting legacy will almost certainly be Fox News, the 24/7 network he founded in 1996 as a competitor to CNN. The channel cultivated a devoted audience in the decades to come, establishing itself as a pillar of the modern conservative movement.
In recent years, Fox News opinion hosts have drawn intense criticism for pushing conspiracy theories and falsehoods, including airing baseless claims of voter fraud after then-President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden.
Fox Corp. and Fox News were sued over those false allegations, most notably by Dominion Voting Systems, which settled with the companies for a staggering $787.5 million in April, averting what had promised to be a high-stakes trial.
The media magnate looms large in popular consciousness. In the eyes of many progressives and Democratic voters, Fox News is a scourge, while some Republicans regard Murdoch as a folk hero. The Murdoch family's private dramas helped inspire the HBO series "Succession."
He was also one of the swashbuckling tycoons of the pre-internet era, becoming the first executive to challenge the supremacy of the "big three" TV networks with Fox, home to "The Simpsons" and "Cops." In the 1980s, he acquired the legendary film studio 20th Century Fox, which he ultimately sold to Disney in 2019.
Murdoch's departure comes at a pivotal time for the conservative media ecosystem. Fox News remains the market leader in right-wing news, but the channel faces competition from brands such as Newsmax, One America News Network and The Daily Wire.
Two Fox News employees based out of the New York offices told NBC News on Thursday that they were shocked but not surprised about the announcement.
One of the employees said Lachlan Murdoch was the “obvious choice.”
“He’s been running Fox News for years,” the employee said. “I just didn’t expect the announcement today. It almost felt calculated.”
It remains to be seen whether Fox News opinion hosts under the new corporate regime will continue to bind themselves to Trump, who leads the Republican presidential primary race by wide margins. Fox Corp.'s other well-known news media assets include The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post.
Fox News was key to Trump's political rise, but the relationship between the channel and the former president has occasionally shown signs of strain. In a post on the platform Truth Social just hours before news of Murdoch's exit broke, for example, Trump excoriated Fox for purportedly refusing to show the results of a poll.
Murdoch's decision to step down may not mean immediate changes at Fox Corp. and News Corp., but his abrupt departure could set the stage for more “Succession”-style battles in the months and years ahead.
Lachlan Murdoch ascended to the top of the Fox empire after a bitter power struggle with his younger brother, James. The elder Murdoch's four older children — including daughters Prudence and Elisabeth — all hold sway over the companies because they own shares in the family trust, however.