He's the anti-Murdoch. Peter Chernin is a former book editor who worked his way up Hollywood's power chain as a TV producer for Showtime and eventually head of the Fox (FOX) Broadcasting Co. And he can finesse things at News Corp. for his high-powered boss, Rupert Murdoch, like nobody's business. Chernin, 52, oversees film and TV production of such blockbuster hits as X-2: X-Men United and runs Fox's fast-growing FX and other entertainment channels. Those properties helped propel the company to double-digit increases in revenues and earnings in '03.
Chernin was a key negotiator when News Corp. won regulatory approval for its $6.6 billion deal to buy control of the DirecTV Inc. satellite service. But Chernin can take off the gloves when needed: He and Cox (COX) Communications Inc. CEO James O. Robbins traded nasty barbs over News Corp.'s planned double-digit price hike for its Fox Sports Networks channels. Chernin won a 10% increase and Cox's pledge to carry more Fox channels. Some think Chernin could run Walt Disney Co. (DIS) if Chairman Michael D. Eisner leaves. But Chernin says he's happy right where he is, getting paid $17.3 million to serve as good cop to Murdoch.
-- Built Fox into a hit-making movie studio and launched the hot cable TV channel FX.
-- Was a key negotiator in Murdoch's deal to buy a controlling stake in the DirecTV satellite service.