Big change on the TV side of News Corp. – Tony Vinciquerra, chairman and CEO of Fox Networks Group, is leaving the company after 10 years, he just announced to the staff (his email is below). In a separate memo, also posted below, News Corp. president and COO Chase Carey lays out Fox’s new hierarchy, with David Haslingden, CEO of Fox International Channels, now being named president and COO of the Fox Networks Group. But in the new reporting structure, the layer that Vinciquerra held is being eliminated, with his current reports Haslingden; David Hill, Chairman and CEO of Fox Sports Media Group; Peter Rice, Chairman Entertainment, FNG; and Mike Hopkins, President of Affiliate Sales and Marketing for Fox Cable, now all reporting to Carey.

In the past couple of years, Vinciquerra emerged as Fox’s top TV deal-maker, spearheading tough carriage negotiations with Time Warner Cable, Cablevision and DISH that netted the company millions in retransmission consent fees and created a template for other broadcast networks. As chairman and CEO of Fox Networks Group, Vinciquerra oversaw Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox Cable Networks – FX, National Geographic Channel and NatGeo WILD, Fox Movie Channel, FUEL TV, 19 O&O regional sports networks, SPEED, Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Soccer Plus, Fox College Sports, FOX Deportes, and the Big Ten Network – as well as Fox International Channels, which reach 350 million subscribers worldwide. Under him, Fox’s cable networks became a key contributor to News Corp.’s bottom line and last quarter were responsible for 50% of the company’s profits.

Vinciquerra’s rise within Fox peaked in the spring of 2009 when, as part of the company-wide reorganization following the exit of Peter Chernin as News Corp. president and COO (Chernin was the person who had brought him to Fox), Vinciquerra was given oversight of the entire portfolio of Fox networks – broadcast and cable, domestic and international, reporting to Rupert Murdoch. Then in July of that year, Chase Carey was named president and COO of News Corp., and Vinciquerra began reporting to him. Several months later, Fox Entertainment chairman’s Peter Rice’s duties were expanded to oversee programming for the broadcast network as well as FX, something Vinicquerra had been doing. The move raised speculation about a possible exit by Vinciquerra. Last year, he was approached by Comcast’s Steve Burke about possibly joining the merged Comcast-NBCU TV operations.

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Vinciquerra said he first considered leaving in July but decided to put off the move with two big retrans negotiations looming – one with Cablevision and one with DISH. With those resolved, he said he approached Carey with a request to be released early from his contract around Thanksgiving, and the two spent the past couple month ironing out the company’s succession plan. Vinciquerra will stay on until Feb. 11 to help with the transition. One of his last duties will be attending the Feb. 6 Super Bowl, which is carried by Fox this year, where he will introduce the new Fox Networks Group executive team to buyers and other key attendees.  As for the future, Vinciquerra said he had already been approached by several private equity firms and other companies. As for NBCU, that door closed long time ago as it involved a move to New York, said Vinciquerra, who plans to stay in Los Angeles with his family. He also intends to pursue his passion for broadband. (Vinciquerra is a member of the Board of Motorola). “I’ve been fascinated to watch what’s been going on in the communication business,” he said, adding that he has been studying how electricity changed the world. “I see a lot of parallels to broadband, and I feel it’s time to step back and study that on the public or private side. It’s going to have a revolutionary effect.”

Vinciquerra joined Fox in December 2001 as President of the Fox Television Network.  He was named President and CEO of Fox Networks Group in June 2002 and chairman in September 2008. Before joining Fox, Vinciquerra, who started off as a TV ad salesman and station manager, was EVP and COO of Hearst-Argyle Television. He is a board member of the Paley Center for Media. Here is the memo Vinciquerra sent out internally:

To My Colleagues at FNG, FBC, Fox Sports, Fox International Channels and NE&O:

It is with extraordinarily mixed feelings that I tell you February 11 will be my last day at Fox. It has been an amazing 10 years working with this wonderful company and the many exceptionally talented people within all of our groups.

We have achieved many milestones over the past decade for which I will be forever grateful to you and to Rupert, Chase Carey and Peter Chernin. We have seen the emergence of FX as a creative power in cable programming. We have grown our Regional Sports Networks into the most dominant supplier of local sports telecasts in the country. Fox Sports is now the place to go to see the Big Events and it is slated to add many more to its roster over the next years. We’ve served as an industry catalyst, driving the evolution of standard definition to high definition television. FBC has been the most formidable network in the history of broadcast television, winning more years in a row than any other network, and it appears we will add to that run this year and next with the addition of X Factor.

We have launched from green fields many businesses that have grown to be successful in their own right, channels like The Big Ten Network, Fox Reality Channel and its transition into National Geographic Wild, Fuel, and Utilissima. And our FIC business has grown to be the most successful international group in the industry and shows no signs of slowing down.

Moreover, through the focused teamwork and determination of all our groups working together, we’ve changed the financial structure of broadcast television in America to ensure it continues to grow and thrive.

I’ve decided now is the time for me to do something different — probably more entrepreneurial in nature — and I am excited to begin down that path.  This is something I’ve thought about for some time and, with our strong competitive position and seasoned team of leaders in place, it is the right time to take the plunge.   At the same time, it is very difficult to transition from the daily interactions I have with so many of you.  We’ve built deep and trusting relationships over these very exciting years and I leave with the knowledge that I will remain in contact with you.

Most of all, my thoughts are centered around the fact that these incredible organizations we have built are now in the hands of extremely capable executives, each of which I have had the good fortune to work alongside and in whom I have the greatest confidence. You have shown your mettle in the best and most difficult of circumstances and have worked tirelessly (literally) for the betterment of Fox and News Corporation. For that, I am very proud of what you have accomplished and look forward to watching your continued growth, both personally and as a business. And if a war ever starts, I want to be on your side!!

Thanks again for all the fun, the trials, the tribulations, I will be forever proud to say I was your leader for a time…

And please always remember, you can do well, by doing good.

All my best to all of you in 2011 and beyond,

Tony

And here is Carey’s memo:

January 6, 2011

Dear Colleagues:

We are announcing today that Tony Vinciquerra, who has been Chairman and CEO of the Fox Networks Group since 2002, has decided to leave the Company on February 11th.   Over the past decade, Tony has made many significant contributions to our organization, chief among them helping to build our cable portfolio into one of News Corporation’s biggest growth drivers.   We all owe Tony a debt of gratitude for everything he has done to get us to the enviable position we hold today.

We are fortunate to have in place a uniquely talented group of executives across FNG, so we are restructuring our operations to expand the portfolios of some of our key executives, giving them direct responsibility for developing their businesses.

Following Tony’s departure, David Haslingden will become President and COO of the Fox Networks Group.  David has done a great job growing our Fox International Channels business into a valuable asset and we have every confidence he will excel in shaping the future of FNG.  He, along with David Hill, Chairman and CEO of Fox Sports Media Group; Peter Rice, Chairman Entertainment, FNG; and Mike Hopkins, President of Affiliate Sales and Marketing for Fox Cable, will all report to me going forward.

We all know it’s a critical time for the networks business, with digital technologies upending long-held business models.  We are facing these challenges from a position of great strength and now is the time for us to make some bets and take some risks… some intelligent risks.   With this team of leaders in place at FNG, we are ready to do just that.  Below is more detail on our new organization:

David Haslingden will have responsibility for all the corporate functions of FNG, including our strategic business development, finance, legal, advertising sales, networks engineering & operations and communications teams.

David Hill will gain oversight of our domestic joint venture with National Geographic Channels, bringing his production expertise to bear on this growing asset.

Randy Freer and Eric Shanks will work together to manage our sports cable channels portfolio, reporting to David Hill.

Peter Rice will continue in his current role running entertainment for FNG.

Mike Hopkins will continue heading affiliate sales and marketing for the cable channels. He will also be responsible for developing digital strategies for the networks of FNG, which will be a key issue for us in the coming quarters.  In addition, he will gain oversight of network distribution at FBC.  Jon Hookstratten will report to Mike.

Hernan Lopez will have sole day-to-day oversight of Fox International Channels, reporting to David Haslingden.

I look forward to working with this team and all of you as we enter this new year.

Sincerely,

Chase Carey