The Murdoch Family: All About the Real-Life People Who Inspired 'Succession'
Media scion Rupert Murdoch and his children are the basis of the fictional Roy family on the HBO hit series Succession. Here's everything to know about billionaire media mogul's family
An elderly media tycoon with several grown children in consideration to be his successor: What sounds like the plot of Succession is actually the reality for Rupert Murdoch and his six children.
Murdoch has been married four times and has six children with three of his wives: Prudence (with his first wife Patricia Booker); Elisabeth, Lachlan and James (with his second wife Anna Torv); and Chloe and Grace (with his third wife, Wendi Deng). After divorcing his fourth wife, Jerry Hall, in August 2022, the media tycoon announced his engagement to Ann Lesley Smith on March 20, 2023 (the pair called off their engagement just a few weeks later). His large family leaves many options for who will take over the 92-year-old's business empires, News Corporation and FOX Corporation.
Over the years, there has been public speculation about each of his four older children — Prudence, Elisabeth, Lachlan and James — and their potential to be the next leader. But Murdoch himself was notorious for avoiding the topic: "Let the chips fall where they will," he once said, according to The Irish Times.
In April 2023, Vanity Fair published an article indicating that Murdoch believes a "Darwinian struggle" will produce the most capable successor.
"He pitted his kids against each other their entire lives. It's sad," a person close to the family told the outlet.
Lachlan, Murdoch's eldest son, took over as chairman and CEO of FOX in 2019. The book Confidence Man by Maggie Haberman claims that Murdoch declared Lachlan his successor in a 2017 conversation with Donald Trump. But if the Murdoch family history is any indication, the possibility for change is always present.
From multiple marriages to media moves and many grandchildren, here is a closer look at the powerful Murdoch family and their complicated dynamic.
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch was born on March 11, 1931, in Australia. His business empire began when he was just 22 years old and his father, Sir Keith Murdoch, unexpectedly died. Upon his death, Rupert inherited a small Australian newspaper, The News, in 1952. "My motives were to create a great paper," Rupert recalled to The Australian in 2014. "It was my father's dream. He talked to me about this as a teenager."
From there, Rupert spent much of the 1950s and 60s expanding his newspaper business, acquiring papers throughout Australia and New Zealand. By the mid-1970s, he had purchased major newspapers in both the United Kingdom and the United States, including News of the World, The Sun, the San Antonio Express-News and The New York Post. "Why am I in papers? I just love it," he told The Village Voice shortly after purchasing the Post.
But Murdoch didn't limit himself to just newspapers. Over the following decades, he grew News Corporation to include television, film and publishing companies — including book publisher HarperCollins, film studio Twentieth Century Fox and the Wall Street Journal. By 2009, it was one of the largest media companies in the world, Fortune reported.
"I remember every minute of it," Rupert said of building his empire to The Australian.
However, his 70-plus years in the media industry were not without controversy. In 2011, his British tabloid News of the World was shut down following a phone-hacking scandal, which led to Rupert facing police and government investigations in both Britain and the U.S. In 2016, Rupert's network Fox News was plagued by sexual harassment claims, resulting in CEO Roger Ailes stepping down and Rupert taking over as chairman and CEO.
In his personal life, Rupert has been married four times. His first marriage came in 1956 to Patricia Booker, an airline hostess from Adelaide, Australia. They had one child (Prudence) and were divorced by 1967. The same year, he wed Anna Torv, a journalist at his Sydney newspaper The Daily Mirror. The couple were married for more than 30 years and had three children: Elisabeth, Lachlan and James. Rupert and Anna divorced in 1999. His third wife was Wendi Deng; they were married from 1999 to 2013 and had two daughters, Grace and Chloe.
Rupert married for the fourth time in March 2016 to supermodel Jerry Hall. "Feel like the luckiest AND happiest man in the world," he tweeted after their civil ceremony in London. They were married for six years and divorced in August 2022. "They remain good friends and wish each other the best for the future," Murdoch's attorney, Robert S. Cohen, and Hall's attorney, Judith L. Poller, said in a statement. According to Vanity Fair, the divorce settlement specifically stated that Hall couldn't provide story ideas to the writers on Succession.
He was later engaged to former police chaplain Ann Lesley Smith. Rupert proposed to Ann on St. Patrick's Day in 2023 and announced the news to his own paper, The New York Post, a few days later. "I was very nervous. I dreaded falling in love — but I knew this would be my last," he said. "It better be. I'm happy."
In April 2023, a source close to Murdoch told PEOPLE that Rupert and Smith called off their engagement. Vanity Fair first broke the news of their split, reporting that Murdoch had become uncomfortable with Smith's evangelical beliefs.
"She said Tucker Carlson is a messenger from God, and [Rupert] said nope," a source told the outlet.
Prudence Murdoch MacLeod, or Prue, is Rupert's eldest child — and only child from his first marriage to Booker. She was born in 1958 in Australia but when her parents divorced, Prue requested to live with her father and his new wife, Anna Torv, claims an excerpt from the 2008 book by Michael Wolff, The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch, published in Vanity Fair. She moved with them to London and later New York, where she attended high school.
Prue briefly worked for one of her father's papers, News of the World, but hasn't always gotten along with him. After a 1997 press conference, where Rupert referred to his "three children" (omitting Prue), the two had "the biggest row I've ever had," she shared in one of her only public interviews. "I rang up, I screamed at him, I hung up. He was very upset," she continued. "He then sent the biggest bunch of flowers — it was bigger than a sofa — and two clementine trees."
The eldest Murdoch child has been married twice: First, in 1986, to Crispin Odey, a London hedge fund manager. They divorced a year later in 1987. She then married Alasdair MacLeod in 1989, who went on to work for Rupert despite Prudence's disapproval, per Wolff. Prudence and Alasdair live in Sydney and have three children: James, Angus and Clementine.
Rupert's first child with his second wife, Anna, is daughter Elisabeth. Born on Aug. 22, 1968, in Sydney, Australia, she was apparently named after her grandmother — Rupert's mother — Dame Elisabeth Murdoch. Elisabeth spent her childhood growing up in New York, minus a brief stint at boarding school in Australia, per Wolff's book.
After attending Vassar College, Elisabeth held a series of jobs within her father's company, including managing director at BSkyB, the British broadcasting company. But she also had ventures of her own: First owning a pair of NBC-affiliate stations in California and later, in 2001, launching an independent television company called Shine, which produced popular reality shows like The Biggest Loser and MasterChef. "I wanted my own business. I felt I could achieve a great deal even if it was bloody scary at the time," she told The Guardian in 2010.
Shine was purchased by her father's News Corporation in 2011 in a deal worth $674 million, according to Variety. Elisabeth took a seat on the board at News Corp. following the acquisition, but in 2019, she branched out on her own again with the launch of Sister, an entertainment production company, the Los Angeles Times reported. The production company is responsible for shows including HBO's Chernobyl and the BBC drama Broadchurch.
"You'd love your parents to be proud of you," she told The New Yorker in 2012. "Each time I tried to work in his company, he wasn't impressed. I realized I had to just go and be myself."
In April 2023, a source told Vanity Fair that Elisabeth is "terrified of Rupert dying mad at her." So, despite her liberal politics, she's unlikely to help James overthrow Lachlan and regain control of Fox News until her father is gone.
In her personal life, Elisabeth has been married three times and has four children. Her first marriage was to fellow Vassar graduate Elkin Pianim in 1993, per the New York Times; the couple had two daughters, Cornelia and Anna. After their divorce in 1998, she wed British PR executive Matthew Freud in 2001. They also had two children together — Charlotte and Samson — and divorced in 2014. In 2017, Elisabeth married for a third time to artist Keith Tyson.
Rupert welcomed his first son with Anna, Lachlan, on Sept. 8, 1971, in London. He grew up in New York and attended a variety of private schools before heading to Princeton University, where he studied philosophy. Right away, he began to work for his father, managing newspapers in Australia and the U.S. before being named the deputy chief operating officer (the No. 3 position) at News Corp. in 1997.
But similar to his big sister Elisabeth, Lachlan also wanted to prove himself outside of the family business. In 2005, he left News Corp. and moved to Australia to launch his own firm, Illyria, which invested in failing radio stations and revived them.
"In life, you back yourself," Lachlan told Business Insider about his decision to step out on his own. "Can you separate from the company and the broader family and a lot of your colleagues and go out on your own and build your own business and take a lot of risk?"
He continued, "It gives you a lot of confidence … that you succeeded outside the company you grew up in."
In 2014, Lachlan returned to the family business as the non-executive co-chairman of News Corp. and 21st Century Fox, according to Bloomberg.
According to a Vanity Fair source, Lachlan's transition back into the company fold was a "big slap in the face" to James who had spent the past decade trying to prove to his father that he was the rightful heir to the media mogul's throne.
A year later, he became the executive chairman at 21st Century Fox, and by 2019, he was named the chairman and CEO at Fox, per The Hollywood Reporter.
"My dad is still going strong, working every day and he's now into his tenth decade and, it's an exciting future ahead of us," Lachlan told Business Insider about his father.
It's unclear if Lachlan even wants to be named successor in the event of his dad's death.
"Lachlan goes to the rock climbing gym every day. I think he has kind of lost interest since James left, but he is still trying to impress his dad," a person close to Lachlan told Vanity Fair in April 2023. A separate source disagreed and said: "Lachlan tells people he's determined to keep the company."
Lachlan has been married to Australian model Sarah O'Hare since 1998. They have since welcomed three children: sons Kalan and Aidan and daughter Aerin.
James Murdoch, Rupert's third child with Anna and fourth overall, had a more rebellious start to his career than his older siblings. Born on Dec. 13, 1972, in London, James attended Harvard University before dropping out to launch his own hip-hop record label called Rawkus Records, per Wolff's book. The label counted Mos Def and Eminem as some of its artists before being acquired by News Corp. in 1998, BBC reported.
Following that acquisition, James would spend the next two-plus decades working for his father, eventually becoming deputy COO of News Corp. in 2011 and CEO of 21st Century Fox in 2015. But by 2019, James began to remove himself from the family business — first leaving the top job at Fox when it was sold to Disney in 2019 and then publicly resigning from News Corp. in 2020. "My resignation is due to disagreements over certain editorial content published by the Company's news outlets and certain other strategic decisions," he said in a statement at the time.
In April 2023, a senior Fox staffer told Vanity Fair that James' "mission in life" is to destroy Fox News — a task he will likely only accomplish with the help of his sisters and once Rupert has died.
James and his wife Kathryn, who married in 2000, run the foundation Quadrivium, which has supported causes including voter participation, democracy reform and climate change initiatives, according to the New York Times. James is also well-known for being much more liberal than his conservative family. "We've been arguing about politics since I was a teenager," he told the New York Times about his father.
James and Kathryn are the parents of three children: daughters Anneka and Emerson, and son Walter. But James has no interest in setting up a family business of his own, according to the New York Times. "There's no empire," he said. "There's no future dynasty."
Born on Nov. 19, 2001, Grace Helen Murdoch is Rupert's first child with Wendi Deng (and his fifth overall). She grew up in New York and attended the Brearley School, where she graduated from in June 2020, according to her Instagram. She is currently a student at Yale University.
Grace appears to have a close relationship with her billionaire father. "My favorite person," she captioned a series of photos of them together on Instagram.
"I am so lucky to be your daughter," Grace wrote on her social media on his 90th birthday.
Rupert's youngest child (and second with Wendi) is daughter Chloe, who was born on July 17, 2003. Chloe grew up in New York with her older sister and currently attends Stanford University, her Instagram bio states.
Despite having two public figures for parents, Chloe leads a relatively private life. She has no public-facing social media accounts, only occasionally appearing on her mother's Instagram. "You always were the cutest child, but now you are the most wonderful 18 year daughter," Wendi wrote on her 18th birthday in 2020.
A year prior, she described Chloe as "beautiful, incredible, unique" in a separate Instagram post.
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