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Report: Murdoch clashes with children
Paper says rift in family over trust funds raises questions about long-term control of News Corp.
August 1, 2005: 7:17 AM EDT
A report says that a rift between media mogul Rupert Murdoch and his adult chilren raises questions over long-term control of News Corp.
A report says that a rift between media mogul Rupert Murdoch and his adult chilren raises questions over long-term control of News Corp.

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - A split between media mogul Rupert Murdoch and his adult children over his third marriage raises question about who will lead News Corp. following the 74-year old billionaire's death, according to a published report.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Murdoch and his adult children are clashing over this split of the Murdoch family trust, which owns a controlling 28.5 percent stake in the media conglomerate that Murdoch runs. That trust is now worth a reported $6.1 billion in both voting and non-voting stock, according to the report.

The paper said that when Murdoch divorced his second wife, Anna, he agreed that stake would be preserved for their three children -- Elisabeth, Lachlan and James -- plus Prudence, a daughter from his first marriage.

In 1999 Murdoch got married for a third time to Wendi Deng, a former News Corp. junior executive from China in her mid-30s. They have two young daughters, according to the paper. And the paper reports Murdoch has attempted to change the arrangement he agreed to in the second divorce to give some control of the stake to the two children.

The paper quoted one person close to the matter as saying Murdoch "has been alienated and isolated from his older kids."

One public result of the tension occurred Friday when Lachlan Murdoch, 33 years old, Rupert Murdoch's eldest son, quit as deputy chief operating officer of News Corp. (Research), a decision that the Journal reported shocked executives at the company.

While Lachlan Murdoch remains on the company board, he had been seen as Murdoch's heir apparent as CEO of the company.

The paper reports that in addition to a dispute over the family trust, Lachlan Murdoch found himself "out of the loop" when trying to deal with the company's television stations group, one of its key profit generators.

Rupert Murdoch told the Journal through a spokesman: "There is no dispute. All my children will be treated equally." He also said he looks "forward to the day when Lachlan wants to return to our company."

Deng could not be reached for comment by the paper.

News Corp. shares slipped 23 cents to $17.34 in trading Friday on news of Lachlan Murdoch's departure. The sell-off was not more significant, the Journal reports, in part because many analysts and investors think his day-to-day role is less crucial than that of Peter Chernin, the president and chief operating officer to whom Lachlan Murdoch reported.

Murdoch has said Chernin would likely succeed him as CEO if anything happened to him in the short term, but the boss's preference to be followed by one of his children has long overshadowed Chernin's long term prospects, according to the paper.

"The reality is from an investor standpoint, it's a positive that Chernin appears to be a successor," Rich Greenfield, analyst at Fulcrum Global Partners, told the Journal. "I think there were fears of nepotism broadly across Wall Street."

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