Rupert Murdoch appears to have anointed Lachlan Murdoch his family business heir apparent, in a reshuffle in 21st Century Fox and NewsCorp senior management this week, appointing the 42-year-old his co-chair at both companies.
Lachlan's brother James Murdoch, once seen as the most likely successor to the Murdoch family empire, was promoted to co-chief operating office at 21st Century Fox, but will not be working in such a direct relationship with his father.
Octogenarian Murdoch has often been criticised for his lack of clear succession plan for the media dynasty, with shareholders in his companies often pushing for him to name a future replacement.
James succession hopes were crushed when his reputation was heavily tarnished by Britain’s 2011 phone hacking scandal, and last year a secret recording of Murdoch revealed he saw Lachlan or News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson as his most likely successor.
James will work alongside 21st Century Fox president and chief operating officer Chase Carey, but has been denied any senior role at NewsCorp.
Murdoch said in a statement that his eldest son, Lachlan, is a “strategic and talented executive with a rich knowledge of our business". He added that he was very pleased that Lachlan would be working closely with him in his return to leadership at the family business.
Of his younger son he said: "I'm confident James and Chase will continue to make a great team during this time of immense opportunity." He said James had done a good job driving 21st Century Fox’s global television businesses.
Lachlan started his career with News Corp aged just 22, moving swiftly up the ranks until he was appointed deputy chief operating officer in 2000 aged just 31.
Although he was widely tipped to succeed his father, he suddenly quit the company in 2005 to begin his own Australia-based investment company Illyria Pty, but he remained a director at News Corp.
According to media reports, Lachlan was unhappy with the working relationship he had with his father, finding Rupert frequently undermined his authority.
For years after Lachlan left the company it looked like his younger brother was the heir apparent to News Corp, until James tumbled from grace following the phone hacking scandal, whereby it was revealed one of News International's flagship titles, News of the World, had hacked the phones of celebrities, politicians and crime victims.
The inquiry that followed, conducted by the UK broadcasting regulator, said James "repeatedly fell short of the conduct to be expected of him as a chief executive officer and chairman." Adding: “We find it difficult to comprehend James Murdoch’s lack of action, given his responsibility as chairman.”
James was forced to resign from almost all his senior roles within the media group – including chairman of News Group Newspapers, executive chairman of News International and chairman of BSkyB. The only post he retained was deputy chief operating officer of News Corp.
In his new role, James will be responsible for Fox Networks Group, the company's US television assets, as well as the development of 21st Century Fox's interests in pay-to-view broadcasters Sky and Star, which operate in Europe and Asia respectively.
In May last year, Rupert divided News Corp's publishing and broadcasting assets into two separate companies – 21st Century Fox and News Corp – to protect his profitable film and television assets from his struggling newspaper titles.
Some shareholders had hoped to loosen the family's grip on the newly separated companies, but Murdoch was elected chairman of both companies, while his sons were elected to both boards – Lachlan wouldn't have been re-elected if it hadn't been for his father's votes, according to Bloomberg.
Murdoch has one other adult daughter from his second marriage, and two young daughters from his marriage to third-wife Wendi Deng, who he divorced last year.