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Murdoch’s succession plan becomes clearer with appointments for both sons

Rupert Murdoch, the second-gen head of media empires 21st Century Fox and News Corp, has stepped back as chief executive of the former so his son James can step into the spotlight.

The US media tycoon will remain chairman of both companies. James has been working as co-chief operating officer at the movie studio since last year.

His brother, Lachlan, who was last year appointed non-executive co-chairman of 21st Century Fox, will now be an executive co-chairman. He will move from Sydney to Los Angeles to take up the role.

If media speculation is correct about the appointments, it will be the first time three members of the Murdoch family occupy the top three positions at the company.

Octogenarian Murdoch has often been criticised for his lack of clear succession plan for the media dynasty, with shareholders in his companies often pushing for him to name a future replacement.

James' succession hopes were temporarily crushed when his reputation was heavily tarnished by Britain’s 2011 phone hacking scandal, and in 2013 a secret recording of Murdoch revealed he saw Lachlan or News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson as his most likely successor.

Since his senior appointment last year, James has been working alongside 21st Century Fox president and chief operating officer Chase Carey, who will step down from the top posts, but remain on as an adviser.

Lachlan started his career with News Corp aged just 22, moving swiftly up the ranks until he was appointed deputy chief operating officer in 2000 aged just 31.

Although he was widely tipped to succeed his father, he suddenly quit the company in 2005 to begin his own Australia-based investment company Illyria Pty, but he remained a director at News Corp.

For years after Lachlan left the company it looked like his younger brother was the heir apparent to News Corp, until James tumbled from grace following the phone hacking scandal, whereby it was revealed one of News International's flagship titles, News of the World, had hacked the phones of celebrities, politicians and crime victims.

James was forced to resign from almost all his senior roles within the media group – including chairman of News Group Newspapers, executive chairman of News International and chairman of BSkyB. The only post he retained was deputy chief operating officer of News Corp.

In 2013, Rupert divided News Corp's publishing and broadcasting assets into two separate companies – 21st Century Fox and News Corp – to protect his profitable film and television assets from his struggling newspaper titles.

Murdoch has two other adult children from his first and second marriages, and two young daughters from his marriage to third-wife Wendi Deng, who he divorced in 2013.

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