Bitter inheritance battle splits Murdoch family

Washington, Aug 1 | Updated: Aug 2 2005, 05:30am hrs
A bitter family battle over inheritance has split media titan Rupert Murdochs family, according to reports. The feud, which has been brought to the fore by the resignation of presumed heir apparent Lachlan Murdoch (33), has all the hallmarks of a family drama, it said. It pits the older children of Murdoch and Deng, in her mid-30s, against Murdochs children by his first two marriages.

When Murdoch (74), chairman of the News Corporation which controls major newspapers and TV and radio stations in several countries, married his Chinese-born third wife in 1999, all four of his adult children attended the twilight ceremony aboard a yacht in New York harbour. But since then, the Wall Street Journal said the marriage had opened a rift between Murdoch and his older children, one that throws into doubt who would control the company after Murdoch.

One of the key debates is who should inherit the familys six billion dollar fortune and Murdochs control of News Corp. Should it be just the media tycoon adult children, as is now the arrangement, or also his two youngest children by Deng. The paper said relations between the older children and Murdoch were severely strained, quoting two people familiar with the situation, in part over the childrens unhappiness about their fathers relationship with Deng.

Lachlan Murdoch will relocate in Australia, which he considers home, with his wife and young baby. He will retain a seat in the News Corp.s board. The family split comes at a sensitive time for the media giant. For the first time in 50 years, Murdochs control has come under threat. In a statement on Friday, Rupert Murdoch said he was saddened by his sons decision, adding through a spokesman: There is no dispute. All my children will be treated equally.

Under the terms of Murdochs divorce with second wife Anna, control of most of the Murdoch familys roughly 30 per cent voting stake in News Corp. Would be preserved for Annas three children, Elizabeth, Lachlan and Jamesplus Prudence, a daughter from a previous marriage, according to two people familiar with the matter.