UPDATE: Below the original post is a copy of Rupert Murdoch’s memo to staff at 21st Century Fox regarding today’s appointments. In it, he notes that the evolution of the company’s leadership, “underscores the considerable planning that both the Company and the Board have undertaken to ensure a vibrant future for 21st Century Fox and its shareholders.”
PREVIOUS: In what looks like a clear sign that Rupert Murdoch is putting his succession plans in order, News Corp and 21st Century Fox made big announcements early Wednesday morning outlining changes to their boards and executive structure — and each involving Murdoch’s sons. Lachlan Murdoch has been named Non-Executive Co-Chairman of News Corp and has been given the same title at 21st Century Fox, the media and entertainment company. Also at 21st Century Fox, James Murdoch has been elevated to Co-Chief Operating Officer. Further, Fox Networks Group Chairman and CEO Peter Rice, who has close ties to the Murdoch family, has extended his contract for an unspecified term. “Under Peter Rice’s leadership Fox Networks Group has continued to push creative boundaries across the company, and has grown tremendously with successful channel launches including Fox Sports 1 and FXX, an increased international footprint and enhanced sports offerings across the world,” James Murdoch said.
The Murdoch appointments are significant. On the one hand, Lachlan has been believed to have little taste for succeeding his dad at the head of News Corp. But his appointment as Non-Exec Co-Chair will see him, in his words, “working more closely than ever with my father.” On the other hand, James, who moved to New York in 2012 to focus on News Corp’s international and pay-TV business, seems to have shed the stigma that built up around him during the phone-hacking scandal at News Corp’s UK press arm. (In fact, the announcements today make no mention of his tenure as the head of News International — now News UK.) His partnering with 21st Century Fox President and COO Chase Carey is a big vote of confidence in the exec who has proved himself far better suited to television than newsprint. As Co-COO, he will have direct responsibility for Fox Networks Group, which will now report to him. He will also have direct responsibility for the strategic and operational development of the company’s owned and controlled interests in Sky and Star’s pay-TV services in Europe and Asia. He is also a director of both 21st Century Fox and News Corp.
Rupert Murdoch said, “We are pleased to elevate James into this important role alongside my partner and trusted advisor Chase Carey. I’m confident James and Chase will continue to make a great team during this time of immense opportunity. James has done an outstanding job driving our global television businesses and our shareholders, customers, and colleagues will benefit greatly from his many talents.”
Carey added, “James has been a great partner and in many ways this appointment formalizes the role he’s been playing for some time, and acknowledges the contribution he has made in driving our businesses to new heights.”
As for Lachlan Murdoch, the 42-year-old entrepreneur was Deputy COO of News Corp before leaving to found private investment firm Illyria in 2005. He noted in a statement, “News Corp today has the energy and sensibility of a start-up and is at the cutting edge of change in the media, publishing and education industries, and much more.” Prior to the new appointments at News Corp and 21st Century Fox, Lachlan had been a director of both. He also, until recently, served as Non-Executive Chairman of Australia’s Ten Network Holdings and remains Executive Chairman of NOVA Entertainment Group, Executive Chairman of Illyria, and a Director of Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art.
His father said today that he was “very pleased” that Lachlan “is returning to a leadership role at the company, where he will work closely with me, Chase, James, and the rest of the board of directors to drive continued growth for years to come.” As Non-Executive Co-Chairman, Lachlan will work to develop global strategies and guide the overall corporate agenda. He’ll divide his time between Sydney and New York.
Rupert Murdoch’s memo to 21st Century Fox staff:
Today we announced Board and Executive leadership changes, which include Lachlan Murdoch’s appointment to Non-Executive Co-Chairman and James Murdoch’s elevation to Co-Chief Operating Officer. Chase and I made the announcement jointly just minutes ago.
This evolution of our leadership team underscores the considerable planning that both the Company and the Board have undertaken to ensure a vibrant future for 21st Century Fox and its shareholders. Our management team has always been one of our core strengths, and there is no doubt that we become even stronger by building on James’ and Lachlan’s collaboration. Our partnership places us in an excellent position to drive our businesses forward for years to come.
And while the senior leadership team and the Board can set the corporate agenda, it is the work that all of you embark on each day that truly sets us apart from the pack. I am forever grateful for your contributions.
Please join me, Chase and the Board in congratulating Lachlan and James on their appointments.