At lunch, Lachlan made Rupert a promise. “We’ll have a better relationship,” he told his dad, which seemed to hearten Rupert.
To Rupert’s surprise, and to Lachlan’s, their relationship did improve. Almost immediately. It really did seem a kind of catharsis. Suddenly, they talked excitedly about Lachlan’s plans. “My relationship with my dad is better than ever,” Lachlan told colleagues.
Rupert agreed. “We do have a better relationship,” he told a friend. Two weekends ago, Lachlan swung by Rupert’s ranch in Carmel, California, to laze by the pool with his little sisters and play tennis with his vigorous dad.
“I think it came as a fantastic surprise to both of them that in removing the business context from their relationship, they re-found the father-son relationship,” says a family friend.
Lachlan remains on the board of directors, which gave him a nice going-away present: $8 million severance. No one would take over his job, always a concocted one. Instead, his responsibilities were divvied up and reassigned. Rupert stepped in as publisher of the Post he and Lachlan loved—who else wanted the job? The real plum was the 35 stations that generate 10 percent of the company’s revenues and 30 percent of its profits. The competition seemed to be between Ailes, from Fox News, and the entertainment side, the element of the company Lachlan identified with Chernin. As a parting gesture, Lachlan lobbied his father on Ailes’s behalf. “Ailes will do a great job,” Lachlan confided to one exec. “I pushed my dad.” Ailes got the stations, a decision that Chernin has said he endorses.
For Lachlan, the emotions over leaving, so big for a time, soon seemed to settle. He had a long teary afternoon at Da Silvano with Col Allan and other Post colleagues—even a board member flew in. At the end of August, he was packing up the rented Tribeca duplex on Laight Street. Sarah was already in Sydney, being treated like a homecoming queen by the papers. Lachlan was also selling the huge place in Soho.
People counseled Lachlan to take some time off, weigh his options. His dad had never taken a day off in his life. He figured he couldn’t either. He registered a company name, Illyria. It would be a media company, though he wasn’t revealing the details yet.
Lachlan seemed at ease. He even felt that his dad was secretly proud that he’d walked. “Proud that you are doing your own thing,” Lachlan thought, “and you got the balls to do it, the guts to leave, the courage to leave.” For Lachlan, that was a nice moment, his dad thinking about his courage.
Also, Rupert said he wanted Lachlan back in four or five years, fit and ready.
“Maybe,” Lachlan told him, but he thought, “Ideally, I’ll be having so much fun building my own business, doing my own thing . . . If I come back, I want to come back on my own terms. I don’t want to be in the same position I was in before.”
Of course, Rupert, being Rupert, wasn’t overly sentimental about keeping Lachlan’s seat warm. If Lachlan returns, will he get the top job?
“Well, maybe,” Rupert mused to a friend, “but his brother, James, is going to be putting in a pretty strong bid. His brother’s doing brilliantly . . . even Elisabeth would like to come back to the company one day, I think.”