Lachlan Murdoch’s embarrassing performance in the One.Tel hearings over the past two days raises the very obvious question: did he resign as an executive from News Corp in July knowing this was coming, or was he pushed?
While dad would have been loyal to the last, such a performance would have been devastating for Lachlan’s reputation as a credible global media executive.
The One.Tel and Super League fiascos were always going to count against Lachlan when it came to the succession question, but the likes of John Malone, the non-Murdoch News Corp directors and all the institutional investors would surely have completely scratched him from the race after his pathetic One.Tel display this week.
There have been mutterings from those who’ve dealt with Lachlan over the years, but he is now looking like the idiot son. “Unimpressive” was the word used by The Australian’s Paul Kelly to Mark Latham, and that’s clearly understating it. Indeed, you have to now ask whether Lachlan should remain on the News Corp board, even as a humble non-executive director representing the Murdoch family interests.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
Yesterday’s performance in saying that he couldn’t recall – 205 times in one day, according to the AFR – goes close to surpassing Alan Bond’s celebrated memory lapse more than a decade ago when he faced his bankruptcy trustee and various criminal charges but couldn’t remember anything. Indeed, former celebrity forensic psychologist and self-confessed coke addict, Tim Watson-Munro, testified that Bond didn’t have the brain power to run a corner store, which is what some critics of Lachlan Murdoch might now be thinking.
Lachlan is known to have loved holidaying, sailing and partying long and hard during his years at News Corp. But who could have imagined he would be this vague when it came to the detail of such a big investment that he was directly responsible for as the company representative on the One.Tel board?
But he does have one small excuse. Lachlan left Australia for New York in late 2000 to take up the position of deputy chief operating officer for the global News Corp empire. Getting his mind around that would have been hugely challenging as One.Tel went into a spiral over the next eight months and finally collapsed in May 2001.
Still, the scenario that has been laid out is that News Corp splashed almost $600 million without doing any formal due diligence after James Packer recommended the move to Lachlan over dinner. Lachlan was then appointed as News Corp’s representative on the One.Tel board, but he clearly didn’t know much about what was going on and simply relied on James Packer, who in turn was way too close to One.Tel founder Jodee Rich.
It looks like Lachlan has failed in his director’s duties at One.Tel, but it looks like a failure based on ignorance rather than design. That said, don’t hold your breath for ASIC to come knocking down at his Bronte Beach pad alleging the lad failed to fulfil his fiduciary duties.