Murdoch puts retirement plans on hold 'forever'

ADELAIDE: Rupert Murdoch said on Wednesday that his sons will have to face a long wait before taking over at the helm of his global media empire News Corp - because he had no intention of stepping down as its head.

The 72-year-old News Corp chief was speaking at the company's annual general meeting in its hometown of Adelaide, Australia.

Murdoch told shareholders, his retirement plans had been put on hold "forever" and that he would have to be "carried out".

According to media reports, Murdoch said his sons Lachlan (31) and James (30) still had to prove their worth. 

Last month, Murdoch celebrated his 50th year as the head of News Corp. He is said to have built the company from a single newspaper into a group spanning satellite television, broadcast television, movie production and newspapers across America, Asia, Australia and Europe.

New lease of life

According to reports, Murdoch implied that the birth of his second daughter (to third wife Wendi Deng) in July has given him a new lease of life. He has appeared in a documentary last year, pumping iron and boasting of his low cholesterol count.

Although slightly hard of hearing at times, Murdoch appeared to be in good health and humour during the two-hour shareholder meeting, the reports said.

Speculation about his possible successor resurfaced this month after James Murdoch was pushed as the lead candidate to head Britain's BSkyB, in which the company has a 35.4 per cent controlling stake.

The hype had worried shareholders that the company would lose its independence. Investors also wondered whether James - who heads the Hong-Kong based Star TV - had enough experience to lead the entire empire.

However, Murdoch said in the annual meeting that any decision on the job would not be based on his family's shareholding in the company and the "best candidate" would get the job.

Praises for Lachlan, James

Accompanied by his older son, Lachlan, at the meeting, Murdoch heaped praise on both his sons, reports stated. Lachlan is widely seen as his most likely successor.

Murdoch is quoted to have said, "So far they are showing great promise. Lachlan is supervising companies which provided 60 per cent of last year's huge operating profit. James has just turned around the single most difficult situation we had in the whole company (referring to James' steered Star TV to its first operating profit last year). They are starting well. Let's see."

Lachlan currently heads News Corp's US publishing operation, including the New York Post, while James oversees Star TV.

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