James Murdoch’s understanding with his father has been that, at an imminent time, he would take the next step in the family succession by moving to New York from his post in London where he runs the European and Asian operations of News Corp.
On James’ timetable, that should be happening already. Indeed, he keeps trying to insert himself into the New York business with an especially impatient hand. Late last year, James helped push his father’s PR lieutenant, Gary Ginsberg
, out of the company, and tried to install his own PR factotum, Matthew Anderson, in his place (his father fired Ginsberg, but has resisted Anderson). The recent public attack on Roger Ailes by Murdoch's son-in-law, Matthew Freud
, had, according to a News Corp. intimate, “James’ fingerprints all over it.” But the more pushy James becomes, the more his father stalls. One industry figure who socializes with the Murdochs believes that Wendi Murdoch, James’ stepmother, is counseling her husband to keep James cooling his heels.
James’ very public confrontation last week with Simon Kelner,
boss of the London newspaper, the Independent
, over the paper’s attack on the Murdoch organization’s coverage of the British election, apparently hasn’t helped his cause with his father, either.
James, and his number two in London, Rebekah Brooks—a key confidant of the Murdoch children who was also involved in the confrontation with Kelner—had convinced the elder Murdoch, long sympathetic to Labour Party leader, Gordon Brown, to let them endorse the conservative leader, David Cameron, in the race. Alarmed by Cameron’s fall in the polls, the two have pressured their papers to pull out all the stops in an effort to aid the Conservatives and undermine Labour and the Lib-Dems.
“It is my job to see that Cameron fucking well gets into Downing Street,” proclaimed Tom Newton Dunn, political editor of the Sun
, to a group of journalists from rival papers, recently.
Even Murdoch Sr. has lectured his son on such overt partisanship—and on the lack of any pretense otherwise. James, in his heated exchange with Kelner, threatened to investigate Evgeny Lebedev, the son of the Independent’s
new owner, Russian businessman, Alexander Lebedev (also the owner of the Evening Standard
). Murdoch Sr.—long of the view that it is ill-advised to personally attack other publishers, lest there be a ricochet effect—is said to have remonstrated that it is especially out of bounds to threaten family members.
James is sometimes described as trying to out-Murdoch his father. That may be too much Murdoch even for Rupert.
More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at email@example.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWolffNYC.