Fox will start its fiscal year on July 1 with a changing of the guard as James Murdoch takes the CEO title from his father, Rupert, the company said today — confirming the widely reported changes. As expected, Rupert will become Executive Co-Chairman along with another son, Lachlan.
But Lachlan will have more power than many anticipated. Corporate functions, global TV and film operations will report jointly to him and James. Meanwhile, COO Chase Carey will become Executive Vice Chairman until June 30, 2016, but will be “actively engaged in supporting Lachlan and James as they step in to their new roles,” Rupert says in a statement.
“It has always been our priority to ensure stable, long term leadership for the Company, and these appointments achieve that goal,” Rupert adds. Lachlan and James are each talented and accomplished executives and together, we, as shareholders and partners, will strive to take our company to new levels of growth and opportunity at a time of dynamic change in our industry.”
Lachlan and James said in a joint statement that they are “humbled by the opportunity to lead, with our father and the talented team of executives at 21st Century Fox, this extraordinary company.”
The Lead Director of the Fox board, Rod Eddington, says that directors have “long been focused on succession and we’re fortunate to have two very talented executives in Lachlan and James to take this Company into the future. Working in tandem with Rupert, we’re confident their partnership and stewardship will give this business real momentum for many years to come.”
Today’s announcement does not mention any exceptions in the new reporting structure to James and Lachlan. Fox News chief Roger Ailes told Variety last week that he expected that he would continue to report to Rupert.
The paterfamilias will continue to have a strong voice at Fox. He controls the family trust that has about 39% of the voting shares.
Still, the changes empower a new generation of executives attuned to global and digital entertainment, a contrast to Rupert’s background in newspapers and conventional TV.
James, 42, became Co-Chief Operating Officer after serving as CEO for Europe and Asia; chairman of BSkyB, Sky Deutschland, and Sky Italia. He has driven Fox’s investment in Vice Media, and purchase of ad tech company TrueX.
But he’s still best known for his role overseeing the UK print businesses News International during the News of the World hacking scandal. The company shuttered the tabloid in 2011.. Parliament’s Culture Media and Sport Committee said in a 2012 report that it found no definitive evidence that James was aware of the law breaking but was “astonished” that he did not seek more evidence for his decision to pay $1 million to settle some hacking-related charges.
Rupert said that James was “not in the least” tarnished by his handling of the affair. “He’s been praised…told the truth all the way.”
Still, the incoming CEO spent much of the last year or so courting Wall Street. That effort appears to have worked; analysts say that they’ve been impressed by the breadth and depth of James’ understanding of Fox’s businesses. In addition to his role at Fox, James is a director of News Corp — the company that includes Murdoch’s print and Australian assets after it split from Fox in 2013.
Lachlan, 43, left his job as deputy COO of News Corp in 2005 after skirmishing with other execs including Ailes and former COO Peter Chernin. He returned to Fox as Executive Chairman last year, and also serves as co-Chairman with his father at News Corp.
He spent much of his professional life focusing on Australian properties including Ten Network Holdings, Nove Entertainment, and Illyria. He also lobbied for its purchase of REA Group.