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Rupert Murdoch is stepping down as CEO of 21st Century Fox

Rupert Murdoch attends the 21st Century Fox and Fox Searchlight Oscar Party.
Rupert Murdoch attends the 21st Century Fox and Fox Searchlight Oscar Party.
David Buchan/Getty Images

  1. Legendary media baron Rupert Murdoch is stepping down as CEO of 21st Century Fox.
  2. He'll be replaced by his son James, and will remain chairman of the company.
  3. Chief Operating Office Chase Carey is also stepping down, and into an undefined advisory role.
  4. Murdoch's other son, Lachlan, is going to work in tandem with James.

A company controlled, but not wholly owned, by the family

The "all in the family" succession strategy at work here is unusual for a company of Fox's size. The Murdoch family, through a trust, owns about a third of the total shares in 21st Century Fox, and the lack of any other large shareholding blocks means they largely have control of the enterprise. But their wealth is heavily tied up in the value of those shares, which in turn is driven by buying and selling on the broad stock market.

So even though nobody can stop Rupert from turning the company over to his sons, the Murdochs need to maintain the confidence of public markets to stay rich. In early trading, Fox shares were down modestly on the news.

The Murdochs also own another company

Until relatively recently, the assets controlled by 21st Century Fox were part of a company called News Corp that evolved out of Rupert Murdoch's original business owning Australian newspapers. A few years back, Murdoch made the decision to split his conglomerate into two smaller conglomerates. One, the company now called News Corp, owns newspapers (including, most notably, the Wall Street Journal) and a book publishing house. The other, the company Murdoch is stepping down from as CEO, owns television networks and TV and film production studios.

This division makes business sense, but aligns imperfectly with the two faces Murdoch presents to the public.

He is, on the one hand, an entertainment entrepreneur. He is, on the other hand, a force in partisan politics, with properties like Fox News and the Sun that wield substantial influence on three continents. But even though in many ways Fox News is spiritually aligned with Murdoch's politically conservative tabloid papers, as a corporate matter it is lumped with the entertainment properties while the highbrow book publisher HarperCollins resides with the newspapers.