* Lachlan returns to News fold after some spectacular
* Murdoch media empire "like the royal family" - academic
* Lachlan to split time between New York and Sydney
By Jane Wardell and Byron Kaye
SYDNEY, March 27 Lachlan Murdoch's appointment
to senior positions within his father Rupert Murdoch's media
empire marks the return of the prodigal son.
Nearly a decade after walking away from the News Corp
inner circle in New York to set up his own investment
company and settle in Sydney with his young family, it appears
Lachlan has accepted the mantle of successor, whether alone or
jointly with younger brother James.
"It's like the royal family," said Alan Knight, professor of
journalism at the University of Technology in Sydney. "Murdoch
senior has always treated News Corp as a family business and
this guy is just basically accepting his inheritance."
Lachlan, 42, will become non-executive co-chairman of both
entertainment company 21st Century Fox and publishing
operation News Corp, sharing both roles with his
father. He rejoins the company after quitting as deputy chief
operating officer in 2005 amid friction with other
News Corp executives.
However, Lachlan's track record after striking out on his
own has been marked by several spectacular failures.
His first move, a highly leveraged A$3.3 billion ($3.04
billion) bid with friend and fellow media dynasty heir James
Packer for pay-TV company Consolidated Media Holdings fell
through as the global financial crisis took hold.
Another ill-fated foray with Packer was the creation of
telecommunications company One.Tel during the dotcom boom. The
pair lost A$1 billion when the company collapsed.
As Packer started to exit the media business in favour of
building a gaming empire, Lachlan paid A$1.50 per share to
purchase a 9 percent stake from his friend in Ten Network
Holdings Ltd in 2010.
Shares in Ten, Australia's third ranked commercial channel,
are now at A$0.27, down 72 percent over the past three years,
and it lost almost A$285 million last year. Lachlan is stepping
down as non-executive chairman and from the board to avoid
conflict with his News Corp roles.
"He has never shown any particular innovation in journalism,
but he is part of the family, isn't he?" said Knight.
Still, others say that Lachlan had proved himself as
chairman of News Ltd before leaving the family firm.
"He wasn't backward in coming forward with his thoughts on
what the paper was doing well and what it needed to improve,"
David Penberthy, a former editor of Sydney's Daily Telegraph,
told local publication The Monthly last year.
A source who worked with Lachlan in his media investments
said it was widely understood that the potential heir wanted to
prove himself without his father's backing.
Even though the Channel 10 investment failed financially, it
allowed Lachlan to stretch his wings as he attempted to direct
the upstart station into a more "grown-up" competitor for its
established rivals, said the source, who requested anonymity as
he was not authorised to speak on the record.
More successfully, Lachlan bought a 9 percent stake in
regional free-to-air television company Prime Media Group Ltd
in 2009, selling it for a A$10 million profit in 2012.
Also in 2009, he spent A$110 million buying half of DMG
Radio Australia, owner of the Nova radio network, taking full
ownership three years later. Under his chairmanship, Nova has
become Australia's No.1 radio network.
News Corp said Lachlan would divide his time between New
York and Sydney, allowing him to continue to develop his
Lachlan, while London-born and U.S.-educated, is seen as the
most "Australian" of Murdoch senior's children. His
English-born, Australia-raised model wife Sarah has starred as
host of the local version of "Next Top Model", while two of his
three children were born in Sydney.
As recently as last June, he told The Australian Financial
Review when asked about the prospect of inheriting his
83-year-old father's empire: "No. No, I've moved on from that."
Still, the signs were there that the door was not closed.
He remained on the board during his years in the wilderness
and had been seen as his father's likely successor before he
Among his siblings, he has arguably the most media
experience and was untainted by the British phone hacking
scandal that ensnared younger brother James.
"For a billionaire media mogul with a supermodel wife, he's
actually a really down-to-earth guy," said Joe Hildebrand, a
columnist at the Daily Telegraph in Sydney. "He does just really
love the media and is really passionate about it."
($1 = 1.0841 Australian Dollars)
(Additional reporting by Maggie Lu Yueyang; Editing by Raju