James Murdoch, the younger son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, has resigned from the board of News Corp.
He disclosed the news to investors in an SEC filing today:
On July 31, 2020, News Corporation (the “Company”) received a letter from James R. Murdoch tendering his resignation from the Company’s Board of Directors (the “Board”), effective immediately. Mr. Murdoch informed the Company that his resignation was due to disagreements over certain editorial content published by the Company’s news outlets and certain other strategic decisions. A copy of Mr. Murdoch’s letter of resignation is attached hereto as Exhibit 17.1. As a result of Mr. Murdoch’s resignation, the size of the Board was reduced to 10 Directors, effective upon such resignation.
James Murdoch had been on News Corp.’s board of directors since 2013.
News Corp. and Fox Corp. are both run by Rupert Murdoch and the Murdoch family, and from July 2015 until March 2019, James Murdoch served as chief executive officer of 21st Century Fox (now known as Fox Corp.), until the company’s entertainment properties were sold off to The Walt Disney Co.
After the merger, his older brother Lachlan Murdoch became CEO of Fox Corp., which now operates Fox broadcast network, Fox Sports, Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network. Rupert Murdoch remains chairman of Fox Corp. and executive chairman of News Corp.
News Corp. operates The Wall Street Journal, New York Post, Dow Jones, The Times, The Sun and The Sunday Times in the U.K., as well as Australian newspapers, including The Australian, The Herald Sun and The Daily Telegraph.
After departing Fox, Murdoch started his own company, Lupa Systems, which invests in tech and various media companies, and acquired ownership stakes in Vice Media.
According to Adweek‘s Kelsey Sutton, News Corp.’s board of directors will be reduced to 10 people with James Murdoch’s resignation. The company will report its fourth-quarter and full-year earnings next Thursday.
James Murdoch is also well-known for having a poor relationship with the late Fox News chairman Roger Ailes, and he played a pivotal role in Ailes’ departure from the company in the summer of 2016, following multiple claims of sexual harassment.
The “over certain editorial content published by the Company’s news outlets and certain other strategic decisions” line is notable here.
News Corp. content skews conservative, and James Murdoch is known for being the self-described “political centrist” in the Murdoch family. He and his wife Kathryn, who is progressive, have publicly criticized the News Corp.-owned The Wall Street Journal for its climate-change coverage. The couple have also been among those to criticize News Corp.’s Australian papers for their coverage of wildfires in Australia.
The couple have also spoken out against President Trump. In fact, each donated $615,000 to the Biden campaign. It was reported in August 2017 that the younger Murdoch sent an email to friends saying that in light of the neo-Nazi protests and violence in Charlottesville, Va., he and his wife would be making a $1 million donation to the Anti-Defamation League.
CNN’s Brian Stelter notes that James Murdoch is still connected to the family business through the Murdoch Family Trust, which holds voting shares in both News Corp. and Fox Corp. (think the HBO series Succession). Rupert Murdoch, now 89 years old, has four votes in the trust, and his four adult children have the other four votes. What happens to the companies in the event of Rupert Murdoch’s death? That remains to be seen.