(New York) June 2022: Jerry Hall, fourth wife of Rupert Murdoch and former partner of Mick Jagger, receives an email from her nonagenarian husband in which he surprises her by telling her that “unfortunately, [he has] decided to end at [their] marriage”. “We had good times, but I have a lot to do,” he adds.
August 2022: As part of a divorce settlement, the 66-year-old ex-model inherits a sprawling estate in England. In return, she must make an unusual commitment: not to provide the creators of the HBO series Succession with any ideas to enrich their script. The black comedy, whose fourth and final season is a smash hit, tells the story of the dysfunctional family of media mogul Logan Roy, a fictional character inspired in large part by the unscrupulous owner of Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, among others.
Journalist Gabriel Sherman reveals these details in the current issue of Vanity Fair magazine, where he writes an article full of scoops on a subject he knows inside out: Rupert Murdoch’s empire, which spans three continents and influences the political life of at least three countries – the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.
One of Sherman’s sources showed him a screenshot of Rupert Murdoch’s email to Jerry Hall. The same source, or another, gave him the story about Succession.
Murdoch’s paranoia is understandable. According to a rumor that Sherman confirms, James Murdoch, one of the 92-year-old patriarch’s two sons, suggested lines and scenes to the creators of the HBO series.
In other words, the Murdochs are as twisted as the Logans, if not more so. And Rupert’s estate arouses as much covetousness as Roy’s. At stake: the future of Fox News, whose lies about the 2020 presidential election just forced Fox Corporation, parent company of the conservative news channel, to negotiate a $787.5 million settlement with the manufacturer of voting machines Dominion Voting Systems.
Result: Lachlan and James no longer speak to each other. Politics partly explains their differences. A conservative, Lachlan counts Fox News host Tucker Carlson among his friends. Progressive, James hates Fox News to confess. But the eldest is especially angry with the younger for having convinced their father to sell the 21st Century Fox, jewel of the empire, to Disney for 71.3 billion dollars in 2017.
Favorite son of Rupert, Lachlan thus saw the empire over which he dreamed of reigning cut off from one of its most glamorous pieces. He is now co-chairman of News Corporation and chief executive officer of Fox Corporation.
James has not played an active role in the family empire since resigning from the News Corporation board on July 31, 2020. He attributed his departure to “disagreements over certain editorial content published by the securities of the group as well as other strategic decisions”.
Now head of investment fund Lupa Systems, James has particular contempt for Fox News, whose promotion of climate denialism, white nationalism and voter conspiracy he has criticized as a threat to American democracy.
Also the succession of Rupert Murdoch by his son James would bring about major changes for Fox News, according to Gabriel Sherman.
“Some think James would purge Fox News and turn the channel into a center-right alternative to CNN,” the reporter wrote in Vanity Fair. “Others think James would opt to sell Fox News to a private equity firm, just to get rid of a toxic asset. Within the chain, there is a visceral fear of what a future led by James would mean. “James sees the destruction of Fox News as his mission in life,” a senior Fox News official told me. »
But, according to Gabriel Sherman, James Murdoch dreams of rising to the head of the empire by forming an alliance with Elisabeth, who shares most of his progressive views, and another sister, Prudence. Born from Rupert’s first marriage, she stayed away from the family business after working briefly for News of the World, one of her father’s newspapers.
Like the other children of Murdoch’s second bed, Prudence has a voice in the family holding company. Voice which could be decisive in the succession of Rupert Murdoch (the two children of the patriarch with Wendi Deng, his third wife, will not have a voice in the chapter).
In the meantime, some people close to Rupert Murdoch wonder if all is well in his head. They are particularly concerned about his recent engagement to Ann Lesley Smith, a former conservative radio host.
Engagement that Murdoch broke off less than three weeks later. According to Gabriel Sherman, Smith began to frankly make her future husband uncomfortable with the fervor of his evangelical faith and his conviction that Tucker Carlson is a “messenger of God”.
April 2023: Jerry Hall and the creators of Succession can’t believe it.