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.