Why leave a family empire?

Filed under: Opinion |

Lachlan Murdoch announced last week that he was leaving his father’s company, News Corp., at the end of this month and moving to Australia.

News Corp. is the parent company of Fox News Channel, FX Networks, HarperCollins Publishers, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., Direct TV and British Sky Broadcasting Group.

Lachlan Murdoch is deputy chief operating officer and oversees News Corp.’s newspaper operations. One of his titles is publisher of the New York Post.

Reading through the coverage of and after the announcement, it seems that Lachlan’s departure might have something to do with a family rift (Rupert is on marriage number three and who gets control of the empire when he is gone is apparently causing friction).

Even so, Lachlan’s only 33, so it would seem that he had a pretty good gig working for the old man, regardless of family politics. Of course he still does have a pretty good gig, since he’ll reportedly keep his post as a company director and adviser.

Not coming from a family that owns a multi-national corporation, and not having to worry about how to split it up at some point down the road, I can’t really imagine why ol’ Lachlan would want to leave or even what it would be like to be 33 and in his position. (Of course being 33 again and in any position might not be a bad deal if I could find a way to pull it off.)

So, since I don’t know the Murdochs, and since my siblings and I tend to get along quite famously, here’s how I can imagine the conversation going were it the Boyd boys who sat atop the throne at megalithic media empire.

SON: Pops, I think I’m going to quit my job and leave the country.

DAD: Uh, huh.

SON: Dad! I’m serious here.

DAD: Uh, huh.

SON: You’re not even listening are you? It’s like the time I fell out of the big tree in the front yard and when I came running into the house for help you told me to go back outside and play.

DAD: Uh, huh.

SON: Or like the time I was on the roof and you said to jump and that you would catch me, and after I Peter Panned head first into the ground you said you weren’t ready and that I should climb back up and try again.

DAD: Uh, huh.

SON: I’m not joking here, Dad. I need to do something on my own. Need to be my own man. Get a job because I’m qualified, not just because I’m kin. Prove I can be successful without you greasing the wheels for me.

DAD: Uh, huh.

SON: OK. Fine. I’ll just put it in writing and walk. You’ll miss me when I’m gone.

DAD: Uh, huh.

Several minutes later.

DAD: (on the intercom to his secretary) That portable MP3 player that you got me for my birthday is really neat. And the sound from those nifty little earphones is incredible. Oh, by the way, my son was just in here. Any idea what it was he wanted? I was in the middle of an old Tom Paxon tune and couldn’t bear to turn it off. Real true-to-life stuff that fella sings about.

SEC: I think he’s going to resign and leave the country.

DAD: Did I buy an overseas company to add to my megalithic media empire?

SEC: Not that I know of, sir.

DAD: Do you think he’s been drinking warm beer again?

SEC: Not that I know of, sir.

DAD: Get him back in here.

Several minutes later.

DAD: So, I’ve heard a rumor that you’re going to quit your job and leave the country.

SON: It’s not a rumor. I told you I was leaving.

DAD: Uh, huh.

SON: Not that again.

DAD: OK, let me make sure I’m correct about this. You’re giving up a sweet job with a megalithic media empire, and the security that goes along with knowing that you can’t be fired because your mother would kill me?

SON: Right.

DAD: Are you just stupid or what?

SON: No way. Trick question. I’m not falling for that again. There’s no right answer. I’ve tried both and either way I lose. See, I’m not completely stupid.

DAD: Uh, huh.

SON: Arrgggg!

DAD: Lunch not agreeing with you?

SON: I’m quitting my job. I’m leaving the country. End of story.

DAD: OK.

SON: That’s it?

DAD: Uh, huh.

SON: You’re not going to beg me to stay, tell me to take some time to reconsider, ask me what you can do to make things better?

DAD: Nope.

Phone rings.

DAD: Uh, huh. Uh, huh. Uh, huh. Goodbye.

SON: Who was that?

DAD: Your little brother. Wanted to know if it was true that you were leaving and if he could replace the carpet in your office with hardwood flooring and the drapes with vertical blinds.

SON: That little…

DAD: Uh, huh.

SON: (Lips moving, words must be coming out).

DAD: (Sees son’s lips moving, but has hit replay on his MP3 player.)

TOM PAXON: (singing through those nifty little headphones) I saw someone under my kitchen table, talking to my old tom cat. They were talking about hockey and the cat was talkin’ back. Along about then everything went black. But wasn’t that a party?

DAD: Uh, huh.

Mike Boyd is editor of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at mike.boyd@csbj.com or 329-5206.