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Family dynasties are common in the publishing business, but the changing nature of the industry, not to mention intrafamily relationships, is dramatically evident in the news that Ziff Communications is for sale.

William Ziff Sr. founded the company in 1927. William Ziff Jr. took over the business after his father's death in the 1950s. But now his three sons have decided to invest the family fortunes elsewhere.

It's understandable Bill Ziff would like to pass on the company intact, but he ceded control to his sons realizing that if they don't have the vision and the drive of the father, a famous name is not enough-especially in today's rough and tumble media world.

But another family empire apparently is in the making. Rupert Murdoch is taking steps to see that his media empire stays in the family.

Bill Ziff and Rupert Murdoch have things in common. In their twenties, they inherited media properties from their fathers. Mr. Ziff inherited and sold off one magazine company, then built a second. Mr. Murdoch started with one small newspaper in Australia and built a worldwide empire. He has three children as well, and his two sons have been in training in various posts within his News Corp.

Unlike Bill Ziff, Rupert Murdoch has no current plans to retire, so we must wait to see whether future generations of Murdochs will run publicly held News Corp. Boards of directors often seem willing to bet on the genes, and put the second generation in charge.

Family continuity, like brand names, is often a plus in the media business, signalling ongoing plans and policies. But the sons of Bill Ziff see a different future for themselves, and the company will be better served in the hands of people anxious to continue to compete in the changing media scene.

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