James Murdoch Elevated to Deputy COO at News Corp.

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NEW YORK - News Corp. has promoted James Murdoch to the post of deputy COO and chairman and CEO, international, further elevating the son of News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch in the media and entertainment conglomerate's corporate ranks.

Murdoch has been serving as chairman and CEO, Europe and Asia, as well as executive chairman, News International, since 2007. In his newly-created role that firmly secures him as the company's number three executive, he will remain directly responsible for the company’s operations in Europe and Asia, but add certain corporate-level duties, including a focus on further evolving brands and businesses in the digital age.

News Corp. said Wednesday that Murdoch and his family will this summer relocate from London to New York where he has already maintained an office that he has used during trips. He will continue to report to deputy chairman, president and COO Chase Carey and also work closely with his father.

As in the past, a News Corp. spokesman didn't comment on succession plans at the company and how the promotion would affect them. He did highlight though that Carey's contract runs for several more years. Industry observers have long seen James Murdoch as the likeliest of Rupert Murdoch's children to one day take over for the mogul. His new post will allow him to add more experience with the U.S. parts of the business.

RBC Capital Markets analyst David Bank said the move was "no surprise" to him, and there will be "no real day-to-day change" at the company. "I think Chase is going to be there for as long as he wants to be. It's a marathon, not a sprint for succession."

Miller Tabak analyst David Joyce said James Murdoch "has had the broadest asset management experience at News Corp. among his siblings," but he expects the company's acquisition of production firm Shine Group, led by Murdoch daughter Elisabeth, to potentially lead to a new balance of power over time. "Eventually, Chase could be CEO, and James COO," he said. "We expect Lachlan [Murdoch will return and] be in charge of newspapers, and Elisabeth in charge of TV and film production."

"I read this as one further indication that James is the heir apparent of Rupert's children," said Alan Gould, analyst at Evercore Partners. But given a stable corporate hierarchy, he added: "I do not see any meaningful near-term impact on the company or the stock.‪"‬

Said Wunderlich Securities analyst Matthew Harrigan: "He probably would not have had the opportunity at the company to attempt what he achieved if his last name was not Murdoch, but he has performed brilliantly, has a gut business sense and seems to understand how digital transforms content creation and distribution."

News Corp. said Wednesday that James Murdoch will bring "his significant operational expertise to bear across News Corporation’s broad asset portfolio, collaborating with senior leaders to develop and execute strategies and plans that strengthen and further evolve businesses, extend brands, and build new franchises." It didn't provide more specifics on possible projects for the elevated Murdoch, but sources said he is expected to work on subscription-based and digital businesses as he has done in his recent work.

"James has demonstrated in an array of roles that he is a shrewd and decisive operator who can deftly navigate complex issues to transform businesses," said Carey. "He has equally shown a unique understanding of the emerging technologies and the digital forces that are reshaping our industry."

He added: "As we become increasingly global and consumer focused, we believe there are real opportunities to add new dimensions to our core businesses. We are confident that James’ deep knowledge of international markets, his proven leadership, and his passionate focus on building consumer relationships make him the ideal person to help us realize these opportunities across all our companies."

Said James Murdoch: "I feel extremely fortunate to continue to support News Corporation’s international growth and also be given the chance to contribute to important initiatives across the Company. Most of all, I am delighted to work even more closely with Chase Carey, whose extraordinary leadership is felt in every part of the business." 

A shareholder lawsuit recently accused News Corp. directors, including Rupert and James Murdoch, of nepotism and overspending for Shine.

Murdoch has spent the past 15 years in senior roles at the entertainment conglomerate and also sits on its board. "James' ascendancy is no surprise," said Larry Haverty, portfolio manager at Gamco Investors, which owns News Corp. stock. "He did a great job with [U.K. satellite TV provider] BSkyB."

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