Who Will Run News Corp.'s Publishing Company? (Analysis)

News Corp generic image - H 2012
Getty Images

News Corp generic image - H 2012

THR takes a look at three possible candidates: Tom Mockridge, head of the company's U.K. newspaper unit; Rupert Murdoch adviser Joel Klein; and Dow Jones' Robert Thomson.

LONDON -- With Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. this week confirming a planned split of its entertainment and publishing assets, one of the issues debated by observers is who will run the latter as CEO.

After all, the media mogul said in announcing the separation that he would remain chairman of both firms and CEO of the entertainment company.

Some observers suggested that his oldest son Lachlan Murdoch might be brought in to run the publishing company as CEO. But the mogul said that was unlikely, even though he would like to bring the 40-year-old back into the News Corp. fold in some shape or form beyond his seat on the conglomerate's board.

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Lachlan Murdoch has been running the investment company Illyria in Australia in recent years. Through its investments, he is currently chairman of Australian TV company Network Ten and DMG Radio Australia.

Analysts and company watchers have mentioned several other potential candidates though for the CEO role at the publishing company after a News Corp. split, and all are internal candidates. Murdoch has signaled he is looking to hire from within. The company has declined to comment beyond that.

Internal candidates include Kim Williams, head of News Corp.'s Australian arm News Ltd.; Brian Murray, head of book unit HarperCollins; and Lex Fenwick, who joined News Corp. from Bloomberg LP this year to become CEO of financial news publisher Dow Jones.

But observers are tipping that one of the following three men could possibly become the publishing company's CEO.

Tom Mockridge, CEO of News International:
Born in 1955 in New Zealand, Mockridge is a longtime News Corp. executive who has Rupert Murdoch's trust. Case in point: He took over as CEO of U.K. newspaper unit News International last year amid the phone-hacking scandal to fill the post vacated by Rebekah Brooks.

Mockridge originally joined News Corp.'s News Limited in Australia in 1991, served as assistant CEO until 1996 and then became CEO of Australian pay TV firm Foxtel.

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At some point, he ran publicly traded newspaper company Independent Newspapers in New Zealand.

Later in his career, after leading the merger between Stream TV and Tele+ that created Italian pay TV firm Sky Italia, he became its CEO. In 2008, Mockridge took on the broader role of managing director of European Television, reporting to Rupert's younger son James Murdoch.

Observers highlight that he has broad experience, credibility with staff as he started as a newspaper reporter in New Zealand and is a trusted hand within News Corp.

Joel Klein, executive vp and CEO of News Corp.'s education business:
Born in Brooklyn, the Harvard Law School graduate has the connections and the resume to run a major organization.

For many years, he served as New York City School Chancellor, running the largest public school system in the U.S. for Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Late in 2010, he was hired by News Corp. as executive vp and a senior adviser to Rupert Murdoch. In July 2011, amid the re-erupted phone-hacking scandal,  Murdoch picked Klein to "provide important oversight and guidance" in the internal investigation of phone hacking. He just gave up oversight of the company's management and standards committee, which has cooperated with the authorities on the phone hacking issue, to News Corp.'s general counsel.

The education division he is overseeing will be part of the publishing firm after a News Corp. split.

His past career also saw him in a high-level job at Bertelsmann and as assistant attorney general in charge of the antitrust division of the U.S. Department of Justice, where he led the antitrust proceedings against Microsoft.

He also worked for President Clinton in the White House, and his wife is Nicole Seligman, general counsel of Sony Corp., who this year was elevated to the role of Sony Corp. of America president.

"Don't count out Joel Klein," says one observer.

Robert Thomson, editor in chief of Dow Jones and managing editor of The Wall Street Journal:
Like Mockridge, Thomson is a trusted News Corp. hand with global experience, but he has less of a corporate executive resume.

Before joining Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones in 2007 after Rupert Murdoch acquired it, the Australian was the editor of The Times of London.

Before that, he was editor of the U.S. edition of Financial Times and used to oversee its correspondents as foreign news editor in London. He had himself served as correspondent in Beijing and Tokyo as well.

Thomson started his journalism career at The Herald in Melbourne, Australia.