Rupert Murdoch to hand over CEO role to son James

The media baron Rupert Murdoch is preparing to hand over the CEO job at Twenty-First Century Fox to his son, James, the firm’s channel Fox News reported.

Rupert Murdoch, aged 84, remains chairman and controlling shareholder of the company behind Fox News Channel, Fox broadcast network and the 20th Century Fox movie studio, through a family trust that owns shares. He has been CEO since 1979 and chairman since 1991.

Fox News reported the pending move on its website, attributing the announcement to Rupert Murdoch. CNBC first reported the story based on sources who requested anonymity.

James Murdoch, 42, is the company’s co-chief operating officer. His brother Lachlan, 43, currently non-executive co-chairman at Fox, will become executive co-chairman along with his father, according to Fox’s story.

Spokespeople for 21st Century Fox did not respond to requests for comment.

Rupert Murdoch’s company started with a single newspaper in his native Australia.

He grew it across many media platforms in Britain, the US, Germany, Italy, and India.

By creating the Fox network in the US, he shook up broadcast television. Then he tackled cable TV with Fox News.

But his newspapers have had a harder time. A phone hacking scandal in Britain stung the company. Under pressure from investors, he split the original News Corp into print and entertainment companies in 2013.

Rupert Murdoch is also the executive chairman at News Corp, the company that now contains The Wall Street Journal and New York Post newspapers and book publisher HarperCollins.

It was unclear whether the reorganisation would take place this year or at the start of 2016, CNBC said.

The next Fox board meeting will discuss the matter of succession, the company said in a one-sentence statement.

The CNBC report said Chase Carey, president and chief operating officer of Twenty-First Century Fox, would stay on at the company in a yet-undefined advisory role.

“The most important thing in the immediate term is that Chase Carey not leave,” said Needham & Company analyst Laura Martin.

“Wall Street really cares about Chase Carey running this business. So if the implication of Rupert handing the title to his son is that Chase Carey leaves in the near term, we would expect that to negatively impact the stock prices.”

A Harvard University dropout, James spent his early career as a cartoonist and co-founder of hip hop label Rawkus Records, which was bought by News Corp. He joined News Corp in 1996, at the age of 23 and was soon installed as head of the company’s Asian assets, including Star India.

Four years later, he was named CEO of BSkyB, now known as Sky, that is 39% owned by Fox.

Some key investors have been warming to the idea that James has the ability to run Fox.

In interviews, some top investors who know James, and other people familiar with the company, describe him as curious and a risk taker like his father.

But they also cite two big differences that they like: James is less sentimental about certain assets than his father and he is more enthusiastic about courting shareholders.

“James is a giant!” said Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a Murdoch family ally and one of Fox’s top shareholders with a 6.6% voting stake, in a recent interview.

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