‘Extraordinary bullying’ as Trump-related legal battle threatens Rupert Murdoch’s heir

Held in a lavish mansion in one of Sydney’s wealthiest neighborhoods, Lachlan Murdoch’s Christmas party has become a fixture for Australia’s elite.

Alan Jones, Qantas Airlines chief executive, Home & Away actress Kate Ritchie and Sky News Australia presenter Peter Stefanovic were among those present at the party last December.

Yet this year’s event will take place against an uncomfortable backdrop, as the future heir to Rupert Murdoch’s sprawling media empire juggles legal battles over Donald Trump’s ill-fated bid to regain control of the White House.

The executive chairman of Fox Corporation is fighting two separate defamation suits brought against the company in America over false allegations by Fox News that electronic voting machines helped rig the US election in favor of Joe Biden.

The cases, brought by voting technology companies Smartmatic and Dominion, set the stage for a surprising twist on Tuesday when Lachlan broke with his father’s tradition to launch his own legal salvo against Australian news site Crikey.

His lawyers say an open-access article published on June 29 contained the “libelous accusations” that Lachlan had “illegally conspired” with Trump to overturn the 2020 presidential election and incite “a mob with murderous intentions” to march on Washington. Capitol building in January of last year.

The legal battles represent the biggest test for Lachlan since his elevation three years ago as heir apparent to the Murdoch empire. If you’re wrong, the crisis could take a toll on Fox’s reputation and finances. It’s a tough tightrope for Lachlan to walk.

Will Hayward, the chief executive of Private Media, owner of Crikey, told the Telegraph he was ready to “defend free speech in the face of extraordinary bullying”.

“We dared to publish an article suggesting that Fox News and its owners may have some responsibility for the events of January 6,” he added.

“As a result, Lachlan Murdoch, whose name we have not mentioned, sent a series of letters demanding that we remove the article and issue a full apology or face the courts.

“Although we haven’t started this fight, we think it’s worth it and should be staged in public.”

The legal wrangling will intensify the public eye on Lachlan, who has let billion-dollar deals define his reputation since taking over Fox in 2019.

His elevation followed years of competition with his brother James to jostle for their father’s favor amid uncertainty over who would take over Rupert’s sprawling media business.

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