Rupert Murdoch’s monumental decision to step down as chairman of his Fox Corp. and News Corp. caps off a historic, and often controversial seven-decade career — one that included the establishment of America’s fourth major broadcast network on the back of major sports rights.
But for the current and future operation of Fox Sports, little is expected to change. Murdoch’s son Lachlan will be the sole chairman of News Corp. and continue as Fox Corp. executive chair and CEO, effective in November.
“The time is right for me to take on different roles, knowing that we have truly talented teams and a passionate, principled leader in Lachlan,” the elder Murdoch said in a memo to company staff.
The network is currently tied into long-term rights contracts with the NFL, MLB, several college conferences, NASCAR, FIFA, and several horse racing events, with the NFL pact stretching through 2033.
Lachlan Murdoch has played an active, direct role in helping manage many of those relationships in recent years, including meeting with league commissioners and team owners, as well as speaking out on sports media trends. Fox Sports CEO Eric Shanks recently met with FIFA president Gianni Infantino at a Dallas Cowboys game and also remains crucially involved in company operations.
The 92-year-old Murdoch said he will be actively involved in network operations on a more informal basis as chairman emeritus.
“In my new role, I can guarantee you that I will be involved every day in the contest of ideas,” Murdoch said. “Our companies are communities, and I will be an active member of our community.”
Changing Sports TV Landscape
Three decades ago, it was Rupert Murdoch’s decision to overpay for the NFL’s NFC TV package in a four-year, $1.6 billion deal that put the then-struggling and often-overlooked network on the map, snatching the rights from incumbent CBS Sports.
The deal was not rational in pure market terms at the time, but the decision ultimately changed the network and entire sports TV landscape forever.