Rupert Murdoch to pass Fox reins to son James

Jun 11, 2015, 3:29 PM EDT
News Corp founder Rupert Murdoch attends the 2015 Time 100 Gala at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 21, 2015 in New York City.
Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Sources are saying that Rupert Murodch is preparing to step down as CEO of 21st century Fox and hand over control to his son James. The New York Times reports that James Murdoch is expected to take over as chief executive, and the elder Mr. Murdoch will remain at the company as executive chairman. Another son, Lachlan, is moving from Australia to Los Angeles to become co-executive chairman, the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

The exact timing for the changes is unclear, but it is said to be part of Mr. Murdoch’s long-term succession planning with the board. The changes are expected to be discussed at a board meeting next week, one person said.As part of the reorganization, Chase Carey will step down from his role as chief operating officer at Fox and work as an adviser to the company. Mr. Carey, widely respected on Wall Street, is said to have played an integral role in the succession plans and has built flexibility into his contract with Fox to ease the transition, one person said.

While no one doubts the elder Murdoch will still have the final say on whatever goes on at Fox, Carey's stepping down as COO will leave the company without a layer of senior management outside the family for the first time, notes CNBC. For many years that role was filled ably by Peter Chernin, who departed as News Corp.'s COO in 2009 and was succeeded by Carey, who is widely lauded by shareholders for his management of the company's cable networks. James Murdoch, who gave up his job running BSkyB after the U.K. hacking scandal engulfed the company four years ago, has been winning fans among the Fox investor base for his work as co-COO. 

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, writes Reuters. He joined News Corp in 1996 at 23 and soon ran the company's Asian assets. He was later named CEO of BSkyB, now known as Sky, that is 39 percent owned by Fox. Some key investors have been warming to the idea that James has the ability to run Fox, describing him as curious and a risk-taker like his father. They also cite two big differences that they like: James is less sentimental about certain assets than his father, and more enthusiastic about courting shareholders.