News Corporation is well known for having a corporate culture that
discourages dissent with the Sun King and requires an editorial line
sympathetic to the Murdoch family and pushing the commercial interests
of the company. Lachlan Murdoch’s shock resignation was therefore always going to be a
challenging story which most News Corp business journalists would
prefer hadn’t happened.

Terry McCrann and Bryan Frith have long been Murdoch loyalists and both finally weighed in on the issue this morning. Frith’s column in TheAustralian cautiously trots out the scenarios that have been reported elsewhere and then offers the following:

“News’s Australian spokesman Greg Baxter discounts the speculation and says
that Lachlan resigned because he wanted to return to Australia and begin the
next phase of his career – that is, do something else. To many that’s an
explanation that’s difficult to accept, they feel there must be something more
to it. Whatever, it is suggested that Lachlan’s relationship with his father remains

News Ltd CEO John Hartigan reportedly sent a missive around the
Australian papers telling them to push the “returning home for family
reasons” line and Frith largely stayed on message in what was still a reasonable commentary.

McCrann’s column
in the Murdoch tabloids took a similar line, baldly stating that “his departure really was
influenced to a significant degree by his desire to root his new family
in Australia.”

However, he did offer some interesting insights as he downplayed the
importance of Lachlan – “more of a ripple than a wave” – and correctly
pointed out that News Corp always has completely revolved around Rupert.

“The reality is that Rupert and News Corp are focused on electronic media and the US. Australia and print – and the New York Post – have been Lachlan’s baby. Lachlan’s departure must inevitably weaken
the voice of Australia and of print in the broader company.”

McCrann dismisses all the “silly things” that have been written about
the succession issues and again confidently asserts that Rupert’s
desire to change the carve up of the inheritance pie to include his
infant children as equals is “completely unconnected” to Lachlan’s departure.

One leading Australian chairman once told Crikey he’d never come across
anyone in life who was as absolutely certain about so many issues as
McCrann. The bearded burbler acknowledges the inheritance changes
remains “an issue,” but despite professing to have no “fly-on-the-wall
information” he’s absolutely certain of the facts based on “plain

As with most things in life, we presume Lachlan’s departure is far more
complex that McCrann claims, but we’ll have to read about that in
non-Murdoch outlets. A good start is this week’s online version of The Bulletin which has an interesting column from Max Walsh attributing Lachlan’s adoption of the Bronte option to “thwarted ambition.”

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey