An Heir to a Media Empire. And Now An Environmental Funder, Too

The son of Rupert Murdoch might not be who you’d expect to emerge as a big environmental philanthropist, but his and his wife's budding Quadrivium Foundation has pegged natural resources, starting with fisheries, as a top priority. 

James Murdoch is an heir of the News Corp. empire, who convinced his super-conservative father to give a damn about climate change. Kathryn Murdoch (née Hufschmid) worked for the Clinton Climate Initiative and has been an active trustee of the Environmental Defense Fund. 

Together, they’re becoming quite a vocal force in environmentalism, coming from a more conservative perspective. With the recent launch of their Quadrivium Foundation, that could translate into a big infusion of cash into the cause, if not now, then at some point down the line. The Murdoch fortune now stands at around $14 billion. Because Rupert seems to have zero interest in harnessing this wealth to philanthropy, that challenge will fall to his kids. 

Related - Rupert Murdoch and Philanthropy: Will a Legendary "Scrooge" Change his Ways?

So what exactly drives the giving of James and Kathryn Murdoch?  

Rupert Murdoch describes son James as a “complete convert” on climate change, who won his father over to the cause, an issue Rupert once viewed with skepticism. This is significant, considering his media properties Fox News and the Wall Street Journal have long bombarded the public with climate denial and resistance to climate policy. 

But James Murdoch does appear to be a believer, having been instrumental in News Corp.’s company-wide carbon reduction strategy. And he wrote in the Washington Post a few years back that clean energy should be a cause that conservatives embrace. 

Related: James Murdoch IP Profile

Kathryn Murdoch is even more active with environmental nonprofits, and might be the true driver of the couple’s interest in the cause. She held the role of director of strategy and communications for the Clinton Climate Initiative from 2007 to 2011. And she has been active with the EDF, specifically with the group’s work on oceans issues and fisheries policy. 

But their new gig is Quadrivium, which sounds like a science-fictional precious metal, but is actually the foundation the Murdochs started in the past year or so. The foundation has a few admirable interests, including equal opportunity, children’s health, science research, and community causes in New York. And then there's the program in natural resources.

So far, green funding has been all about fisheries, and all about EDF. Its two grantees are both Environmental Defense Fund projects, one to reform European fisheries policy, a project Kathryn Murdoch was involved in as a trustee. The other is Fish Forever, a joint project run in part by the EDF to encourage sustainable fishing in poor coastal communities. 

Right out of the gate, the Murdochs appear to be practicing marine conservation philanthropy similar to that of the Walton Family Foundation, promoting a more sustainable fishing industry through the business-friendly EDF. Their program seeks to back projects that create “both prosperous communities and innovation in the sustainable use of resources,” which sounds a lot like the economically-focused conservation strategy over at Walton. 

But it’s still very early in the couple’s green philanthropy. Given that they’ve both been so outspoken about climate change, it’s hard to imagine their foundation won’t at some point get involved in the issue. At the very least, we’re looking forward to seeing what kinds of players in environmentalism the Murdochs become, even if they stick to ocean issues.