Ong follows STAR to Hong Kong

NatGeo boss replaces departing Askew; duo fills vacuum

HONG KONG -- International broadcast veteran Laureen Ong has taken over as chief operating officer of Asian media monolith STAR, a wholly owned subsidiary of News Corp., it was announced Monday amid a flurry of global boardroom shifts.

Ong's move from a pinnacle slot at National Geographic Channel, which she helped launch in 2001, follows the departure of longtime STAR veteran Steve Askew, who has resigned for personal reasons.

STAR is Asia's leading media and entertainment company, and boasts some 300 million viewers across 53 Asian countries.

Ong, the first president of National Geographic Channel, has been credited with bringing the channel to 64 million homes nationwide and making it profitable well ahead of schedule. News Corp. manages the National Geographic Channel in partnership with the National Geographic Society.

Meanwhile, National Geographic announced that David Haslingden will replace Ong as CEO of National Geographic Channel U.S. and Steve Schiffman will become the channel's acting general manager.

Haslingden has been CEO of National Geographic Channels International and Fox International Channels -- he'll keep both titles. Schiffman has been executive vp of marketing/digital media at National Geographic Channel since August 2002.

It's been a time of change at NatGeo, with senior vp John Ford announcing several weeks ago that he would be leaving the channel. In a conference call Monday, Ong said that the two were not related and that 75% of the development of the channel over the next year has been completed.

"Our upfront is pretty far along, so there shouldn't be any concerns because of that," Ong said.

Ong said that she wasn't looking for a new job but the call came and the process took between three and four weeks from start to finish. She'll begin her new job in six weeks.

She said she's leaving NatGeo in good hands.

"Laureen is an accomplished media and entertainment veteran," STAR CEO Paul Aiello said in announcing the hire. "We are excited to have attracted a TV executive of such high caliber and extensive experience to join STAR, as the company aggressively expands its portfolio of content properties across all platforms in its key markets in Asia."

Ong's rise in the global media power rankings is renowned. A third-generation Chinese-American, Ong began work as a receptionist at an independent TV network and worked her way up steadily to become a principal architect of National Geographic's success.

She also has been vp/general manager of Washington's WTTG-TV and spent seven years at SportsVision in Chicago, during which she became executive producer and vp broadcasting for the Chicago White Sox baseball team.

Scott Murphy reported from Hong Kong; Paul J. Gough reported from New York.