Fox digital chief logs out

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In a surprise reshuffle atop News Corp.'s digital arm, the conglomerate said late Thursday that Ross Levinsohn has resigned as president of Fox Interactive Media.

Peter Levinsohn, president of digital media at Fox Entertainment Group and an 18-year veteran at News Corp., will step in for Ross Levinsohn. (The executives are distant cousins.)

Sources suggested that Ross Levinsohn is leaving on amicable terms with Rupert Murdoch's empire as it became clear to both sides that the entrepreneurial executive was more interested in the high-stakes dealmaking that brought the conglomerate big new assets like MySpace and less enamored with the day-to-day operations aimed at driving growth.

In an outgoing statement, Ross Levinsohn hinted at other opportunities.

"It has been incredibly exciting to be a part of something that's pioneering a new way for people to live their lives on the Web," he said. "I realize there are incredible opportunities in the marketplace, and I look forward to my next venture."

The exit marked the second departure this month of a top-ranking FIM executive. On Nov. 3, chief operating officer Mark Jung stepped down, citing personal reasons.

Ross Levinsohn presided over a period of enormous growth for News Corp. in the digital arena, guiding a multibillion-dollar portfolio that included FoxSports.com, IGN.com, RottenTomatoes and AskMen.com. He was named head of FIM with the formation of the unit in July 2005, coming over from Fox Sports Interactive Media. He has had a hand in News Corp.'s Internet interests since coming to the company in 2000 after stints at Alta Vista, CBS Sportsline and HBO.

His last major deal at News Corp. was a $900 million multiyear search pact with Google.

Peter Levinsohn will take the reins at FIM effective Nov. 27. In his current post, he has been responsible for taking Fox Entertainment assets to digital platforms, like the new Fox on Demand effort. He also has led deals to put Fox content on platforms ranging from iTunes to Amazon and spearheaded a first-of-its-kind revenue-sharing agreement with Fox affiliates for digital dollars.

Sources suggested that he could be better suited than Ross Levinsohn to take FIM's properties to the next stage of growth given his more operational mind-set. In addition, his depth of experience at the company could come in handy with increasing focus necessary on cross-pollinating FIM with News Corp.'s many divisions.

"I am thrilled with the opportunity to lead a division that is really shaping the future of the media business," Peter Levinsohn said. "I'm very excited to build on the foundation Ross and his team have created over the past year, and I'm looking forward to getting started."

Peter Levinsohn will step down from a second post he held at News Corp., president of worldwide pay television, where he had worked his way up since joining the division in 1990. He first joined News Corp. in 1989 as a manager in the international theatrical division at 20th Century Fox.

"At this point in FIM's evolution, Peter's adept leadership, keen knowledge of the complexities of the digital space and ability to work skillfully across multiple business lines makes him the ideal person to lead this important asset into the future," said Peter Chernin, president and chief operating officer at News Corp.

Added Chernin, "I know Ross will be successful in whatever he chooses to do next, and we hope there is an opportunity for us to participate."

The shake-up marks the third transfer of power atop the new-media divisions of major content companies over the past 10 days. AOL replaced Jonathan Miller with NBC Universal veteran Randy Falco on Wednesday, and CBS Corp. hired investment banker Quincy Smith on Nov. 6 to replace CBS Digital Media president Larry Kramer.

Georg Szalai reported from New York; Andrew Wallenstein reported from Los Angeles. Paul J. Gough contributed to this report.
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