James Murdoch's Future at News Corp. Looks Increasingly Hopeless

The past 24-hours have been rough for the Murdochs

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News broke Tuesday that James Murdoch will face another round of grilling from Parliament in the not-too-distant future, and a recent flurry of bad news for News Corp. will keep him busy in the meantime. In addition to defending himself against accusations that he lied to British lawmakers, Murdoch has to deal with two new lawsuits directed at News Corp.--one from a phone hacking victim, one from the company's shareholders--as well as the inevitable anxiety caused by the discovery of "many tens of thousands" of documents, a huge cache of information that could include the smoking gun evidence that could ruin his career. Things are looking grim for the young Murdoch's apparent ambition to one day run News Corp., and it looks increasingly likely that his dad Rupert won't be able to turn things around.

In a way, James Murdoch was never supposed to climb up the News Corp. ladder. He joined the company when it purchased his hip-hop label, Rawkus, in the 1990s but didn't fit into the Rupert-shaped mold very well. The Wall Street Journal describes him thus:

Stylistically, James has been a contrast to his father--deliberately so, say some people close to him. While Rupert Murdoch famously shuns textbook management practices like focus groups, James is known for fluency in business jargon like "ARPU," the average revenue per user. He rehearses earnings calls and takes copious notes during meetings.

Cautiously navigating his roles of son and scion, James sometimes calls his father "Dad" or "Pop," other times "the boss," the term used by other News Corp. executives. He argues with his father openly.

Rupert Murdoch said in August that the News Corp.'s chief operating officer Chase Carey would take over if he  were to die suddenly, but according to The Journal's sources he "has since continued to defend James in conversations with executives and advisers." Nevertheless, the company's critics suggest that Rupert's remains most concerned about clinging to power. In the latest round of lawsuits, News Corp. shareholders complain about Rupert Murdoch running the company as if it were his "own personal fiefdom," and they quote News America chief Paul Carlucci telling Floorgraphics, an advertising company that News Corp. supposedly stole software from: "If you ever get into any of our businesses, I will destroy you. I work for a man who wants it all, and doesn't understand anybody telling him he can't have it all."

If James Murdoch doesn't take over the company, the Murdoch dynasty at News Corp. is in trouble. Rupert's other children Lachlan and Elizabeth seem like they don't want anything to do the company--perhaps, as Fox Sports Media Group chairman David Hill suggests, because their dad is so hard on them. "I feel sorry for the kids. They really have to climb Everest to prove themselves," says Hill. "The rest of us get to gambol around the slopes and these kids have to strap on oxygen and reach the summit."

James is slipping down the mountain, and based on his past statements, Rupert cares more about his company than he does his son's career. "Chase and I have full confidence in James," he said at the board meeting in August. "In the end, it's a matter for the board.''

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.