Son rises at News Corp.
EmptyLONDON -- James Murdoch has been appointed chairman and CEO of News Corp.'s European and Asian operations, reporting to president and COO Peter Chernin, it was announced Friday as part of a wide-ranging reorganization of News Corp.'s management following its deal to acquire Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones.
The move, which puts the 34-year-old executive in pole position to replace his father, Rupert Murdoch, when the 76-year-old News Corp. chairman and CEO eventually steps down, will see James stepping down as CEO of British Sky Broadcasting after four years in the post, but remaining as chairman.
He will be replaced as BSkyB chief executive by CFO Jeremy Darroch and will replace his father in the nonexecutive chairman's role. The elder Murdoch will step down from the BSkyB board, where he has held a seat for 18 years, having been chairman since 1999.
In the newly created role, James Murdoch will take responsibility for the strategic and operational development of News Corp.'s television, newspaper and related digital assets in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
This new structure follows a decade of rapid growth for News Corp.'s interests in the regions, which include U.K. newspaper publisher News International U.K., pay TV platforms Sky Italia and STAR Group Ltd. and News Corp. Europe, which has made cable and channel investments in Central and Eastern Europe.
The move was welcomed by investors.
"This is the next, critical step in a very logical transition," Larry Haverty of Gamco Investors in New York told Bloomberg. "Rupert gave him a very tough assignment and he passed it with flying colors," said Haverty, who holds who owns $7 million in News Corp. stock.
"These regions are very important," added Michael Nathanson, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in New York. "James has done a good job at BSkyB. He's dealing with (very) competitive pressures."
James Murdoch will rejoin the News Corp. board, where he served from 2000-03, before being appointed to the BSkyB role. He will become a member of the office of the chairman, Rupert Murdoch.
"James is a talented and proven executive with a rare blend of international perspective and deep, hands-on experience in improving operational results," Rupert Murdoch said. "His experience at Sky, combined with his track record in Asia while running STAR, and prior roles, make him uniquely qualified to take forward these exciting businesses that have grown so much over the last decade. This is the right time to align our operations in Europe and Asia under new, structured group leadership."
During his four-year tenure at BSkyB, James Murdoch is credited with transitioning it from a pay TV platform into a major player in the combined market for entertainment, broadband and telephony in the U.K, with 8 million subscribers and a market leading high-definition, personal video recording and broadband products.
He also confounded the market by taking a 17.9% stake in commercial broadcaster ITV, paying a premium of over 35% to the current share price. The satcaster may yet be forced to sell the stake at a significant loss if a review by the competition authorities deems it anti-competitive. A decision is expected in January.
Murdoch, a self-professed technology enthusiast, said he was excited about the future for media in Europe and Asia.
"I am excited to be rejoining News Corp. in this new role leading News Corp.'s businesses across Europe and Asia, he said. "Media is fundamentally a business of ideas where top-quality, professional journalism and creative entertainment have an extremely bright future -- significant value can be created by focusing on pace, execution and taking advantage of the sea change we are seeing in media."
In a separate announcement, News Corp. said Les Hinton, the executive chairman of its U.K. newspaper group News International, would become CEO of Dow Jones, taking up the position when News Corp.'s acquisition of Dow is completed next week.