Click here for the free Google video of Rupert Murdoch’s recent interview with Charlie Rose. It’s important because Rupe announces his final succession plan: that his four children from his first marriage — Lachlan (middle left), James (near left), Elisabeth (below), and Prudence — will assume control over the family trust that owns 30% of $55 billion News Corp. after he dies. His two daughters by wife Wendi Deng will not assume any control of the trust, nor will Deng have a voice in how News Corp is run. His assets, however, will be divided equally among all six children. Wall Street, though not Peter Chernin, can rest easier now that the dispute over his financial assets has been settled. Rose asked Murdoch: “If something happens to you, [if you’re] run over by a bus when you leave this studio, the four kids have to decide who will be the heir apparent?” Replied Murdoch: “If I go under a bus tomorrow, it will be the four of them [that] will have to decide which of the ones should lead them, … In terms of leadership, they’ll all get treated equally financially.” This squabble had led to a rift with Lachlan Murdoch, who left News Corp. last year after Dad had stated previously that he wanted Deng’s kids to have a say in control of the trust. (See this 2005 New York mag story for a refresher.)
For my money, the Murdoch offspring who should run the company is Elisabeth — but that’ll never happen given the usual corporate misogyny. As I wrote back in 2003 (and much later, other media followed), it was Rupert Murdoch’s second oldest kid, Elisabeth, who, Fox insiders informed me, kept telling U.S. executives that Simon Fuller’s 2001 British monster hit Pop Idol would do just as well in America. But Fox honchos Sandy Grushow and Gail Berman shrugged her off. Finally, these sources said, it took Elisabeth’s nagging Daddy, and a direct order from Rupert himself, to get American Idol launched. Only after it scored a huge audience and became the humilitainment linchpin of Fox’s sweeps win did the news suddenly “come out” that Berman and even Chernin worked to make sure the U.K. import was properly Americanized. Though Elisabeth, formerly head of programming at the family-owned BSkyB, is considered the smartest of Murdoch’s children with Anna, she is only third in the line of succession behind Lachlan and James, 30. Murdoch told Rose it’ll be up to the kids themselves to decide who’ll be Numero Uno in terms of power.