News Corp Australia CEO Kim Williams Resigns

The departure comes at the end of a week where News Corp chair Rupert Murdoch and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd engaged in a bitter pre-election war of words.

SYDNEY - Kim Williams, the CEO of News Corp Australia (NCA) and one of Rupert Murdoch’s most highly regarded lieutenants down under, has resigned from the company, NCA said Friday.

Williams’ departure after twenty months in the job arrives during an explosive week for News Corp in Australia. The major Murdoch tabloids here, led by Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, have taken a strident line against the incumbent Labor government – with the headline  “Kick This Mob Out” under a photo of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. A war of words has escalated between Rudd and the media mogul over News’ election coverage and its corporate ambitions with pay TV net Foxtel, dominating the first week of the federal election campaign.

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And last week New York Post editor Col Allan returned to Australia, with News Corp CEO Robert Thomson saying that Allan would work with Williams to "provide extra editorial leadership" for the company’s papers here, "which are in the midst of an important period of transition in our key markets."

Its unclear what impact these moves have had, if any, on Williams’ decision to depart.

In a statement Murdoch said, “Kim has been a steady and courageous leader at a time when our businesses have faced unprecedented pressure and economic challenges. I want to thank him for his unwavering commitment, and the blood, sweat and tears he has put into News Corp Australia. We wish him well in all future endeavours and look forward to continuing our friendship in the years to come.”

Thomson said in the statement, "Kim feels now is the right moment to leave the company, which he has served for two decades, following the successful implementation of the first stage of News Corp Australia's strategy to drive integration and improve efficiency, to invest in its editorial products and publishing system, and secure a path of growth in a multi-platform world."

“I want to sincerely thank Kim, first for his nearly two decades of service to News Corp; but more importantly, for his loyalty and friendship to me and my family all of these years,” he added. “From the early days when we opened Fox Studios Australia, to his tenacious work building Foxtel and Fox Sports into the powerhouse it is today, Kim has always operated with great integrity and skill. It was with that in mind that I turned to him and asked him to leave the security of the pay TV business and takeover the whole of our Australian operations as chief executive of News Corp Australia.”

Julian Clarke, chairman of News Corp Australia publishing subsidiary, the Herald And Weekly Times, has been appointed Williams’ replacement.

Williams was drafted into the position in 2011 after a decade-long tenure as CEO of News’ joint venture pay TV service, Foxtel.

“He has been a powerful, eloquent and effective advocate for media freedom and freedom of speech in Australia. His leadership against hastily conceived 'reforms' ensured that the vigorous and vital debate that has characterised our country will endure. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for that strong and principled stand," Thomson said.

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Williams said, “I am confident that I leave the company in a strong position and with good foundations for the future. It has been a privilege to work for News Corp across almost 20 years, and I have no doubt it will remain the most memorable element in my professional commercial life. News has many of the finest people in media in our country, and I salute them and their continuing efforts in their service of Australia and Australians.”

Thomson added, "Kim leaves a remarkable, sustaining legacy at these companies and on modern media in Australia. He will no doubt continue to make important contributions to the development of a dynamic, outward-looking, meritocratic country."