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Business before family: 4 marriages, 6 children, and the complicated life of Rupert Murdoch.

Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has launched a petition calling for a royal commission into NewsCorp's dominance of Australian Media.

Rudd argues Rupert Murdoch's Australian media empire is used to "attack opponents in business and politics by blending editorial opinion with news reporting," intimidating those with contrary views into silence. "These facts chill free speech and undermine public debate," the petition states.

In a social media video announcing the petition, Rudd said "Murdoch has become a cancer, an arrogant cancer, on our democracy".

He said Murdoch owned 70 per cent of Australia's print media, including virtually all Queensland newspapers.

"Murdoch has viciously campaigned in support of one side of politics, the Liberal National party, and viciously campaigned against the Australian Labor party," Rudd said.

"There's no such thing as a level playing field anymore."

It's the latest in a strange year for the Murdoch family, which has seen documentary The Rise Of The Murdoch Dynasty tell the story of Rupert Murdoch's influence on world events like Brexit and Trump's election. This year, too, James Murdoch left the company after publicly criticising its views on issues like climate change.

But who are the Murdochs? What's the story behind the best-known, most powerful media dynasty in the world?

Rupert Murdoch.

Rupert Murdoch's name is synonymous with media around the world. His company NewsCorp owns major Australian media including The Australian, The Daily Telegraph, Foxtel and Sky News, plus UK papers The Sun and The Times, and US publications including the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal.

And then there's his other company, Fox Corporation, responsible for the Fox Broadcasting Company, Fox Sports and yes, Fox News.

Basically, Murdoch media is hard to avoid. 

Rupert Murdoch himself is now 89, and still serving as executive chairman of News Corp and chairman of Fox Corporation. 

According to Forbes, his 2020 net worth is more than AU$20 billion, making him the 68th richest person in the world.

He has been married four times, and has six children.

At age 21, Rupert inherited a small regional newspaper following his father's death in 1952.

In 1956 Rupert married Patricia Booker, a former shop assistant and flight attendant from Melbourne. They had one daughter, Prudence, in 1958, and divorced in 1967.

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That same year he married Anna Maria Torv, a Scottish-born cadet journalist working at The Daily Telegraph in Sydney.

Lachlan Murdoch, James Murdoch, Anna Murdoch and Rupert Murdoch. Image: Getty.

They had three children: Elisabeth Murdoch in 1968, Lachlan Murdoch in 1971 and James Murdoch in 1972.

They divorced in June 1999, and Rupert married his third wife Wendi Deng just 17 days later. At the time, Rupert was 68, while Wendi was 30.

They had two daughters, Grace, born in 2001 and Chloe, born in 2003.

In the later years of their marriage, rumours of Deng's closeness with former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair - who is also the godfather to Grace, now 19 - effectively led to their divorce.

Rupert was said to feel betrayed by this, especially as the former PM had been a close friend and powerful political ally of his. 

In 2013, a spokesperson for Blair flatly denied the rumours in a statement to The Hollywood Reporterbut it did little to quell the story.

Image: Getty.

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In 2014, after Rupert and Deng announced their divorce, Vanity Fair published a note written by Deng about a man named Tony: "He is so so charming and his clothes are so good. He has such good body and he has really really good legs," it read.

It was no secret that Rupert's sons - Lachlan in particular - did not get along with Deng. Lachlan only returned to the family business after his father's divorce. 

In January 2016, Rupert announced his engagement to former model Jerry Hall (who was previously not-legally-married to Mick Jagger, and is the mother to four of his children).

Image: Getty.

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They married in March of that year.

Rupert's influence is undeniable. Forbes lists him as the 39th most powerful person in the world.

Though routinely criticised for tabloid media and bias, the biggest scandal surrounding Rupert's media career came in 2011, involving his now-defunct tabloid News of the World and other British newspapers.

News of the World employees were accused of phone hacking celebrities, politicians, members of the British royal family, deceased British soldiers, victims of the July 2005 London bombings and Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old schoolgirl who was murdered in 2002.

At the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press, Rupert admitted a cover-up had taken place within the News of the World to hide the scope of the phone hacking.

The scandal led to multiple arrests, including of former News of the World editors Andy Coulson (who was at the time working as communications director for then-British Prime Minister David Cameron) and Rebekah Brooks.

In November 2015, former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott said that Rupert "arguably has had more impact on the wider world than any other living Australian".

Now, Rudd is advocating for a Royal Commission into just how large that impact has become.

Prudence Murdoch.

Prudence, right, with her grandmother and father in 2005. Image: Getty.

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Prudence Murdoch is the eldest of Rupert Murdoch's six children, born in Adelaide to his first wife Patricia Booker.

After her parents' divorce, Prudence fell out with her mother who remarried a Swiss man, and chose to live with her dad and his new wife, Anna Maria Torv in London, after he purchased News of the World.

After her schooling, she worked briefly as a researcher at News of the World

In 1985, she married Crispin Odey, an English financier who would become the highest-earning hedge fund manager in London, but they separated the following year.

In 1989, Prudence married Alasdair MacLeod, an Eton educated businessman who would shortly begin working for his new father-in-law. Prudence was strongly against MacLeod working in her family business, but Rupert offered MacLeod a job behind her back.

Together they have three children, James, Angus and Clementine, and live in Sydney's eastern suburbs.

Elisabeth Murdoch.

Image: Getty.

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Elisabeth Murdoch, 52, has become a successful businessmen and media entrepreneur.

In the 80s, she and her then-partner Elkin Kwesi Pianim purchased a pair of Californian television stations, KSBW and KSBY, on a US$35 million loan secured by her father. The couple reorganised and sold the stations within 18 months, making US$12 million profit.

In 2001, she founded distribution company Shine in the UK - which was behind shows such as MasterChef, Broadchurch and One Born Every Minute. The company was acquired by News Corporation in 2011, pocketing Elisabeth £153m (AU$277m) in a deal that was surrounded by accusations of nepotism.

Elisabeth and Pianim have two children, Cornelia, born in 1994 and Anna, born in 1997, and split in 1998.

Elisabeth's second marriage was to public relations executive Matthew Freud, the son of former UK MP Sir Clement Freud and great-grandson of Sigmund Freud.

Image: Getty.

Freud allegedly did not get along with his father-in-law, accusing Rupert of having an old-fashioned attitude to women in a Vanity Fair interview.

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They had a 'feud' for much of the time Freud and Elisabeth were married. In 2013, The Guardian reported Freud had banned Rupert from his 50th birthday party - because Rupert's friend-turned-foe Tony Blair was attending.

Freud had also openly shared his disgust with Fox News and had long-supported tighter restrictions on British newspapers which would've had an impact on his father-in-law's tabloids.

Freud and Elisabeth welcomed two children, Charlotte in 2000 and Samson in 2007, before divorcing in 2014.

In 2017, Elisabeth married artist Keith Tyson.

Image: Getty.

Last year, she co-founded Sister, a production company which developed Chernobyl.

Lachlan Murdoch.

Image: Getty.

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Murdoch's oldest son Lachlan, 49, is the executive chairman of Nova Entertainment, co-chairman of News Corp, and CEO of the Fox Corporation.

He studied philosophy at Princeton University before moving to Australia to work in the family business.

Lachlan was considered the most likely contender to run his father's entire empire until he resigned from his News Corp executive post in 2005.

But in March 2014, he returned to the family business as non-executive co-chairman of News Corp and 21st Century Fox Inc, seen as once again planning for succession.

This means he is in charge of the company that owns Fox News, which has become only more partisan and extreme in recent years. Asked recently if he agreed with the political views of the TV station, Lachlan replied: "I'm not embarrassed by what they do at all".

Image: Getty.

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Lachlan married Australian model and actress Sarah O'Hare in 1999. 

They have two sons, Kalan Alexander, born November 2004, and Aidan Patrick, born May 2006, and one daughter, Aerin Elisabeth, born April 2010.

In 2019, Lachlan purchased Chartwell Estate in Los Angeles for an estimated US$150 million - the highest sale price for a property in California's history.

James Murdoch.

Image: Getty.

James Murdoch is the youngest of Rupert Murdoch's three children with Anna Torv and was for a long time seen as a real contender to succeed his father as leader of the family's businesses.

As a teenager, James first came to public notice when he was interning at the Daily Mirror in Sydney. James, then 15, made headlines in the rival Sydney Morning Herald, after he was pictured asleep on a couch at a press conference.

He studied film and history at Harvard but dropped out in 1995 to start a hip-hip record label with friends, Rawkus. News Corp bought it in 1998.

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In 1996, he rejoined the family business and took charge of its small music offerings, and its internet operations.

In February 2003, Murdoch became a director of BSkyB and later that year was promoted to CEO of BSkyB, in which News Corporation owns a controlling minority stake.

His appointment sparked accusations of nepotism, with some commentators and shareholders feeling that the job had not been opened to outsiders and that Murdoch was too young and inexperienced.

Image: Getty.

Over the years, he's been a member of boards for a number of News Corp and other companies, including Sky and Tesla.

In July 2020, James resigned from the board of directors of News Corp, effectively handing the family succession to Lachlan. In his resignation letter, he wrote it was "due to disagreements over certain editorial content published by the Company’s news outlets and certain other strategic decisions".

In October 2020, James told the New York Times he felt he could be more effective from outside the family company.

"I reached the conclusion that you can venerate a contest of ideas, if you will, and we all do and that's important," he said.

"But it shouldn’t be in a way that hides agendas. A contest of ideas shouldn't be used to legitimise disinformation. And I think it's often taken advantage of. And I think at great news organisations, the mission really should be to introduce fact to disperse doubt - not to sow doubt, to obscure fact, if you will.

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"And I just felt increasingly uncomfortable with my position on the board having some disagreements over how certain decisions are being made. So it was actually not that hard a decision to remove myself and have a kind of cleaner slate."

Image: Getty.

James married Kathryn Hufschmid, who has worked for the Clinton Climate Initiative, in 2000. Together they have three children: Anneka, born 2003, Walter, born 2004, and Emerson, born 2008.

He had spoken against the companies' blatant political views, telling The New Yorker in 2019 he strongly disagreed with many of Fox News' views and admitting there were times he and his father did not speak.

In 2017, he donated more than US$1 million to the Anti-Defamation League following US president Donald Trump calling white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia "very fine people".

He also accused News Corp of promoting climate change denial in January 2020, when its newspapers including The Australian and the Daily Telegraph were criticised for their coverage of the Australian bushfire crisis.

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"Kathryn and James' views on climate are well established and their frustration with some of the News Corp and Fox coverage of the topic is also well known," a spokesperson for Murdoch and his wife told The Daily Beast.

"They are particularly disappointed with the ongoing denial among the news outlets in Australia given obvious evidence to the contrary."

In 2020, James and Kathryn donated US$615,000 to the Biden campaign.

You won't hear about that on Fox.

Grace and Chloe Murdoch.

Image: Getty.

When Rupert Murdoch sold 21st Century Fox to Disney in 2018, his youngest children, Grace and Chloe Murdoch, became some of the world's youngest billionaires.

The Murdoch Family Trust made around US$12 billion from the deal, and the direct beneficiaries of the trust were the six Murdoch children. 

Grace and Chloe are both still in their teens, and mostly keep a low profile while living most of their lives in New York. According to Grace's Instagram, she attends Yale.

They appear to be close with their stepmother Jerry Hall and her family, attending events with stepsister Georgia May Jagger.

Image: Getty.

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