James Murdoch abruptly resigned from the board of his father’s publishing company Friday, signaling an acceleration in family tensions over the tenor and politics of its far-flung media empire.
“My resignation is due to disagreements over certain editorial content published by the company’s news outlets and certain other strategic decisions,” Murdoch wrote in a brisk, two-sentence resignation letter to the News Corp. board.
News Corp. declined to comment. James Murdoch was not available for comment.
The 47-year-old executive has served on the board of New York-based News Corp., which counts the Wall Street Journal among its properties, for two decades. But by late Friday, his name had been scrubbed from the company’s website. Two other Murdochs remain: His father, Rupert Murdoch, continues as News Corp.’s executive chairman, and his older brother, Lachlan Murdoch, stays on as co-chairman.
Lachlan Murdoch, 48, also serves as chief executive and executive chairman of the company’s other media company, Fox Corp., which includes Fox News Channel. Until last year, James Murdoch was CEO of Fox but he moved on after his father sold most of the Fox entertainment holdings to Walt Disney Co. James Murdoch has since been building his own investment firm with proceeds from the asset sale to Disney, as well as spending time on philanthropy. He stayed on News Corp.’s board — until Friday.
“We’re grateful to James for his many years of service to the company. We wish him the very best in his future endeavors,” Rupert Murdoch and Lachlan Murdoch said Friday in a joint statement.
In recent years, James Murdoch has had something of a strained relationship with his father and brother, although family members play down notions of a spat.
While he was CEO of Fox, James Murdoch was instrumental in forcing out Fox News Channel longtime Chairman Roger Ailes amid a widening sexual harassment scandal. James Murdoch also made it clear that Fox News former star opinion host Bill O’Reilly was no longer welcome at the company after details emerged of several large settlements for sexual harassment allegations. At a media conference last year, James Murdoch acknowledged that he doesn’t watch Fox News.
James Murdoch and his wife, Kathryn, are big supporters of environmental causes and have made generous donations to Democratic politicians, including Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and U.S. Senate hopefuls Mark Kelly in Arizona and Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana. Murdoch has given $2,800 to each of those Senate candidates this year, and he and his wife have contributed more than $1 million to Biden’s combined committee with the Democratic Party.
In the past, James Murdoch bristled over some of Fox News Channel’s coverage. When President Trump refused to criticize white nationalists in Charlottesville, Va., nearly three years ago, James Murdoch and Kathryn Murdoch sent a $1-million check to the Anti-Defamation League. James Murdoch later said he thought it was important to “lead by example.”
In addition to the Wall Street Journal, News Corp. owns the HarperCollins book publishing house, Barron’s, the New York Post, news outlets in Australia, the Times of London and the Sun tabloid — which has been defending itself in London courts against a libel lawsuit brought by movie star Johnny Depp. The Sun, in 2018, printed a story that referred to Depp as a “wife beater.”
There also have been tensions at News Corp.’s flagship property — the Journal. In July, hundreds of journalists at the paper signed a letter demanding a clearer delineation between the paper’s newsroom and its opinion section. The letter cited concerns about the “lack of fact-checking and transparency” for pieces that the editorial board has run.