James Murdoch, son of News Corp. (NWSA) Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rupert Murdoch, moved a step closer to succeeding his 80-year-old father with his promotion to deputy chief operating officer.
After heading the company’s operations in Asia and Europe, James, 38, will broaden his responsibilities to include News Corp.’s entire global business. That includes the Fox Television Network, the Wall Street Journal and the Twentieth Century Fox film studio in the U.S., as well as newspapers and digital television operations in Europe and Asia.
“He’s stepping into the role after being groomed around the world,” said David Joyce, an analyst at Miller Tabak & Co. in New York. “It’s part of the overall family plan to have James mostly in charge.”
In the newly created deputy COO role, James will continue to report to chief operating officer Chase Carey and oversee operations in Europe and Asia, the company said today. Carey would likely become CEO if Rupert Murdoch should need to be replaced in the near future, with James succeeding him later, Joyce said.
News Corp. rose 25 cents to $17.51 at 4 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The stock has climbed 20 percent this year.
Return to New York
The return to New York, where James attended grade school at the Horace Mann School in the Bronx, comes after a circuitous journey within News Corp., a company he joined in 1996 after dropping out of Harvard University and starting a hip-hop recording label.
In 2000, James was sent by his father to Asia, where he became chairman and CEO of News Corp.’s money-losing Star television businesses in Asia. He was based in Hong Kong, and spent much of his time in India, developing the nascent pay-TV market there.
In 2003, at the age of 30, the younger Murdoch moved to London, and became CEO of British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc, in which News Corp. holds a controlling stake. In 2007, he was put in charge of the company’s operations throughout Europe and Asia, a portfolio that includes digital television distribution and newspapers, and accounts for 20 percent of the News Corp.’s $32.8 billion annual revenue.
Film and Television
In his new job, James will have the opportunity to round out his experience at the company by also working closely with the film, television and newspaper content-related businesses in the U.S. In addition to New York, where his father is based, James will also spend time in Los Angeles, home to the company’s entertainment businesses, according to News Corp. spokeswoman Alice Macandrew.
“He had already been earmarked for this succession,” said Alex de Groote, a media analyst at Panmure Gordon & Co. in London. “He’s being groomed for the top job having done his time at Sky and at News International.”
James Murdoch’s sister, Elisabeth, 42, is expected to return to News Corp. after the company announced in February the purchase of her U.K.-based television production company, Shine Group Ltd. News Corp. shareholders have filed a lawsuit claiming nepotism in response to the $675 million purchase of Shine.
Another Murdoch son, Lachlan, 39, left News Corp. in 2005 after serving as deputy COO, the same title James will now hold. He moved from New York to Australia, and remains on the News Corp. board.
Rupert Murdoch, at the company’s annual meeting last October, reiterated that he has no plans to retire. He has said he’d like to be succeeded by one of his children. He has six children, including Prudence, Lachlan, James and Elisabeth from his first two marriages, and two young daughters with his current wife, Wendi Deng, a former executive from his Asia Star TV whom he married in 1999.
“They need to groom the Murdoch children some more, and Chase is a great one to be learning from,” Joyce said, referring to the chief operating officer.
News Corp. in March won preliminary U.K. government approval for its 7.8 billion-pound ($12.5 billion) bid to take full control of British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc (BSY), the U.K.’s biggest pay-TV broadcaster, after agreeing to spin off the Sky News channel. The deal, News Corp.’s biggest, still needs approval from BSkyB shareholders, who want the New York-based company to raise the bid.
For James Murdoch, the U.K. government decision comes as he fights off phone-hacking claims against the company’s News of the World tabloid. Celebrities including actress Sienna Miller have filed more than a dozen lawsuits, claiming that their phone voicemails were hacked by the News Corp-owned newspaper.
James is also leading the effort to get readers to pay for online content amid losses at the U.K. newspapers. He’s introduced online paywalls at the Times and News of The World and removed all news content from search engine Google Inc. (GOOG) He also introduced a paid-for iPad news publication called The Daily in tandem with Apple Inc.
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