What a difference a few thousand kilometres makes. In Asia, the scions of powerful business families often have to wait past middle age to be trusted with real power: 'What could you possibly know at 50?' In Australia, Lachlan Murdoch, 25, has just been handed the reins of News Ltd and its A$4.5 billion (about HK$27.18 bilion) worth of newspapers, magazines and other investments. It will not be an easy job. The Australian operation accounts for less than 15 per cent of the assets of Rupert Murdoch's US$20 billion News Corp, and barely 6 per cent of the trading profits. It is underperforming, and there is scope for things to go wrong. News Ltd controls nearly 70 per cent of the newspaper market Down Under. Its flagship national daily The Australian is holding its own, but the Daily Telegraph in Sydney and the Herald Sun in Melbourne have been losing advertising market share for several years. Murdoch junior also inherits a big headache with the struggling Foxtel TV joint venture and its sister Super League rugby enterprise that is vital to drive much of the sport programming. These two are draining cash at the rate of nearly A$200 million a year. Although this is only the first season of Super League, staged with all the razzamatazz of US gridiron, analysts are querying the concept. The first urgent task is to rationalise the suicidal duplication of TV cable networks by Telstra and rival Optus that are pushing Foxtel's costs through the stratosphere. Next is the delicate task of nursing along the loss-making Ansett airline so a buyer can be found for the News Ltd's 50 per cent stake. As the first of the Murdoch children to be placed in charge of an important subsidiary, young Lachlan has emerged as a hot favourite eventually to take the helm of News Corp in which his 66-year-old father owns 31 per cent of the voting control. But, in Australian racing parlance, he is 'no good thing'. Lachlan's sister Elizabeth, 28, is being schooled in the television business with BSkyB in Britain by the redoubtable TV executive bruiser and News Corp director Sam Chisholm. If Mr Chisholm was ever called to extricate Foxtel's chestnuts from the fire, it is though that would be a major career accelerator for Elizabeth. There is also brother James, 23, quietly running a recording studio. One non-family member rising in the News spectrum is former Hong Kong hand and Cathay Pacific chief Rod Eddington. Quickly making his mark as Ansett chief executive after a few months in the job, it is easy to imagine Mr Eddington winning favour with institutional investors in a much bigger role. This is Lachlan's moment. Regarded as a chip off the old block, he is a very private person. He prefers balance sheets to casino chips and drives a sedate silver BMW to the office. But there is said to be a beast of a Ducati motorcycle in the garage. Lachlan soon will have an opportunity to demonstrate political as well as business acumen. News Corp has been pressing the Australian government to change the rules on cross-ownership of the media and the role of foreign interests. Kerry Packer is itching to make a takeover bid for John Fairfax Holdings, publishers of the Australian Financial Review. News Ltd would like the rules relaxed to enable the group to push forward into free-to-air TV. This will involve Murdoch rubbing shoulders with politicians twice his age in Canberra. It is regarded as a plus that he was one of a delegation of business executives that went with Prime Minister John Howard on his recent official trip to China. One of the few people to get close to Lachlan Murdoch says he, uncharacteristically, has a tattoo of a lizard high up on his biceps. This a legacy of his days at Princeton University where he was a keen member of a rock-climbing club. Opinion is divided on whether he can scale the very top of the corporate cliff face. The share price of News Corp rose 25 cents to A$5.96 in the two days following news of his appointment. But Wall Street had been very strong.