James Murdoch has resigned from the board of News Corp, the media company said on Friday, citing “disagreements” over editorial content.
The resignation severs Murdoch’s final formal link to the media empire his father, Rupert Murdoch, created. James’s older brother Lachlan heads Fox Corporation.
In a letter of resignation filed on Friday afternoon, Murdoch wrote: “My resignation is due to disagreements over certain editorial content published by the company’s news outlets and certain other strategic decisions.”
News Corp’s News UK division owns the Times, the Sunday Times and the Sun newspapers. Its other assets include Dow Jones, the owner of the Wall Street Journal, broadsheet newspaper the Australian, and the Australian tabloids the Daily Telegraph, the Herald Sun and the Courier-Mail.
The Murdochs’ other media company, Fox Corp, is the parent company of Fox News and the Fox broadcast network, created after 21st Century Fox sold its entertainment assets to the Walt Disney Company last year.
James Murdoch, 47, is the fourth child of the 88-year-old Rupert Murdoch, the billionaire founder of News Corp. Lachlan Murdoch, 48, is seen as the heir apparent.
It was not immediately apparent what editorial content might have fueled James Murdoch’s decision to step down. However, he and Lachlan have recently indicated discomfort with the conservative slant of much of News Corp and Fox Corp.
Rupert Murdoch’s Australian newspapers have repeatedly been accused of propagating climate “misinformation” and giving a platform to climate science deniers, including during Australia’s recent bushfires crisis.
Andrew Bolt, a prominent political commentator and blogger for News Corp Australia, is known for his derision of climate change science and attacks on climate “alarmists”.
News Corp Australia’s executive chairman, Michael Miller, has previously said the company does not “deny climate change or the gravity of its threat”.
Earlier this year, James Murdoch and his wife Kathryn criticized coverage of the climate crisis in the family’s outlets.
“Kathryn and James’s views on climate are well-established, and their frustration with some of the News Corp and Fox coverage of the topic is also well-known,” a spokesperson for the couple said. “They are particularly disappointed with the ongoing denial among the news outlets in Australia given obvious evidence to the contrary.”
Kathryn Murdoch is a vocal environmentalist. She has said she was inspired to act after seeing former US vice-president Al Gore speak at a Fox News retreat.
“I decided to switch everything I was doing,” she told the New York Times. “I wanted to be able to look my children in the eye and say ‘I did everything I could.’”
James Murdoch has also publicly criticized Fox News.
“There are views I really disagree with on Fox,” he told the New Yorker last year.
On Friday, a filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission said: “On 31 July 2020, News Corporation received a letter from James R Murdoch tendering his resignation from the company’s board of directors, effective immediately.
“Mr Murdoch informed the company that his resignation was due to disagreements over certain editorial content published by the company’s news outlets and certain other strategic decisions.”
In a statement Rupert Murdoch and Lachlan Murdoch said: “We’re grateful to James for his many years of service to the company. We wish him the very best in his future endeavors.”