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SYDNEY – Lachlan Murdoch has been elected chairman of third ranked Australian commercial broadcaster Ten Network Holdings Ltd, taking up the post just five weeks after handing over day to day management of the company to new CEO James Warburton.
In the board shakeup former chairman Brian Long becomes deputy chairman and lead independent director.
The move also serves to effectively put a line through speculation by News Corp.’s local broadsheet, The Australian, that Murdoch, a director at News Corp., would replace his father Rupert as chairman of the company’s local arm, News Limited.
“It is … widely understood that Rupert Murdoch would like his son to return to the business,” senior News Ltd columnist, Mark Day wrote earlier this week.
Lachlan Murdoch has an 8.9 percent stake in Ten and also owns 50 percent of local FM radio operator DMG Radio. Both are owned through his private investment company, Illyria Ltd.
Under Australia’s cross media ownership laws owners can control to two out of three of newspapers, TV and radio and if Murdoch was to take the chair of News Ltd he would have to relinquish his Ten board seat.
Murdoch was acting CEO of Ten Holdings for 12 months to Jan. 1. Former Seven Network sales chief, James Warburton, who Murdoch poached for the top job, took up the post after a court ordered injunction of 12 months.
Announcing the changes, outgoing Ten chairman Brian Long said: “The board is pleased that Lachlan has agreed to accept the role of non-executive chairman. His extensive media experience will provide Ten with invaluable strategic leadership. As Interim CEO he reset Ten’s strategic vision and cost base and was instrumental in recruiting Ten’s new chief executive officer, James Warburton.”
“The Board believes that the combined media capability of James Warburton as Ten’s CEO and Lachlan Murdoch as non-executive chairman provides the best opportunity for value creation for all shareholders,” Long added.
It was also announced that Warburton had joined the Ten board as managing director.
Murdoch said that under Long, Ten’s corporate governance processes were improved.
“These processes will continue to ensure good governance and transparency in management,” Murdoch said.
Those statements seems aimed to deflect growing concerns in some quarters about potential conflicts of interest: Ten has an output deal with 20th Century Fox, while Shine Australia produces several of Ten’s marquee programs including The Biggest Loser and Masterchef. Both Fox and Shine are owned by News Corp.
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