Ru­pert Mur­doch un­likely to slow down

He’s ex­pected to stay ac­tive in Fox af­fairs de­spite his plans to give up his CEO ti­tle.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS - By Meg James

Ru­pert Mur­doch has hob­nobbed with news­pa­per ed­i­tors, wolfed down sausages at a Ber­lin sport­ing event, scolded politi­cians on Twit­ter, en­ter­tained Hol­ly­wood pro­duc­ers at his vine­yard in Bel-Air and pol­ished his plan to re­in­force the Mur­doch fam­ily dy­nasty.

Just an­other month in and around the of­fice for the 84-year-old mogul.

Mur­doch plans next week to ask the board of 21st Cen­tury Fox to in­stall his younger son, James, as chief ex­ec­u­tive — the job the el­der Mur­doch has held since his me­dia com­pany was in­cor­po­rated in 1979. Mur­doch also is in­tent on po­si­tion­ing his older son, Lach­lan, in an op­er­a­tional role as Fox’s ex­ec­u­tive co-chair­man, work­ing in col­lab­o­ra­tion with him and James.

Although the el­der Mur­doch plans to re­lin­quish his CEO ti­tle, that won’t di­min­ish his in­volve­ment in cor­po­rate af­fairs, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple who have worked with him.

“Ru­pert will do what he’s al­ways done, dream some­thing up and go out and talk to 400 peo­ple about it, although now he will take James or Lach­lan with him,” said one as­so­ciate who was not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss Fox’s in­ter­nal moves. “This will go on un­til he is 98 and de­cides to sit down and watch the grapes grow.”

Mur­doch plans to re­tain his po­si­tion as ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of 21st Cen­tury

Fox, his $31-bil­lion-a-year-in-rev­enue com­pany that boasts such chan­nels as Fox Broad­cast­ing, FX, Na­tional Geo­graphic and the 20th Cen­tury Fox movie stu­dio.

“I’m sure Ru­pert will not be shy about keep­ing his fin­ger­prints on the com­pany,” Christo­pher Marangi, port­fo­lio manager at Ga­belli Funds, which holds Fox shares, said this week.

Mur­doch has long main­tained a de­sire to turn over to his chil­dren the em­pire he built from a sin­gle Aus­tralian news­pa­per in­her­ited when his fa­ther died in 1952. The chang­ing of the guard would rep­re­sent a third gen­er­a­tion of Mur­doch fam­i­ly­con­trolled me­dia.

Mur­doch him­self has shown few signs of slow­ing down. He bounces from his pri­mary of­fices in New York to Fox’s movie and TV lot on West Pico Boule­vard in Los An­ge­les, mak­ing oc­ca­sional trips to Australia and Europe. He trav­eled to Ger­many last week­end with Fox Sports ex­ec­u­tives for the Cham­pi­ons League soc­cer fi­nal in Ber­lin. Peo­ple who work with him note that Mur­doch’s mother, who was a phi­lan­thropist in the fam­ily’s na­tive Australia, lived to 103.

“He has the same level of drive that he has al­ways had,” said pro­ducer Brian Grazer, who at­tended a re­cent din­ner at Mur­doch’s vine­yard in L.A.

Grazer serves as ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of two Fox hits, this sea­son’s soapy “Em­pire” and the long-run­ning es­pi­onage drama “24.” Other guests at the din­ner were said to in­clude actress An­jel­ica Hus­ton and Peter Rice, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Fox Net­works Group.

Mur­doch is “al­ways in­ter­ested in what’s go­ing on in the world, and he is very di­aled in to pop cul­ture,” Grazer said.

Mur­doch has also been able to steer his com­pa­nies be­yond the Bri­tish phone hack­ing scan­dal of four years ago, in which News Corp. jour­nal­ists in­ter­cepted cell­phone mes­sages left for Bri­tish celebri­ties, sports stars and even mem­bers of the royal fam­ily.

Jef­frey Cole, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Cen­ter for the Dig­i­tal Fu­ture at USC An­nen­berg School, said Mur­doch has seemed determined to ac­com­plish two goals since the scan­dal: pro­tect his fam­ily and safe­guard his beloved news­pa­pers. In­vestors called on Mur­doch to sell the news­pa­pers, which have strug­gled with de­clin­ing rev­enue.

But Mur­doch re­sisted, in part, be­cause he loves the news­pa­pers — and the po­lit­i­cal power they bring. He also sees con­tin­ued fi­nan­cial value in pub­lish­ing.

“My sense is that Mur­doch carved his em­pire into two com­pa­nies to pro­tect his news­pa­pers,” Cole said. “Ru­pert’s fa­vorite thing is to wake up, read his news­pa­pers and then call his ed­i­tors and scream at them. He pro­tected his news­pa­pers bet­ter than other pub­lish­ing com­pa­nies.”

For now, Mur­doch has no plans to make ex­ec­u­tive changes at News Corp., the pub­lish­ing com­pany that in­cludes the Wall Street Jour­nal, New York Post, HarperCollins book pub­lish­ing house and other prop­er­ties. He plans to re­main ex­ec­u­tive chair­man. For­mer Wall Street Jour­nal Man­ag­ing Edi­tor Robert Thom­son has served as CEO since the com­pany was formed two years ago and Lach­lan Mur­doch, 43, is ex­pected to re­main co-chair­man.

In fact, Fox’s and News Corp.’s cor­po­rate head­quar­ters in mid­town Man­hat­tan was de­signed to en­able Mur­doch to move quickly among his fa­vorite busi­nesses. Fox’s and News Corp.’s cor­po­rate suites share the eighth f loor of the of­fice tower, with the Wall Street Jour­nal news­room oc­cu­py­ing sev­eral f loors be­low that and the New York Post po­si­tioned in the two floors above. The Fox News Chan­nel’s op­er­a­tions are also in the build­ing.

An­a­lysts now are wait­ing to learn the de­tails of Mur­doch’s suc­ces­sion plans. Key among them are the length and level of in­volve­ment of Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer Chase Carey, who is ex­pected to step out of the man­age­ment ranks to serve as an ad­vi­sor un­til next sum­mer. Carey is well re­spected on Wall Street and has pro­vided in­vestors with a mea­sure of com­fort that some­one other than a Mur­doch was run­ning the com­pany — par­tic­u­larly dur­ing a tur­bu­lent pe­riod.

Wall Street ap­pears will­ing to give the Mur­dochs a chance to fly solo. Fox shares fell 21 cents to $32.69 on Fri­day. The Mur­doch fam­ily con­trols 39.4% of the vot­ing shares of both com­pa­nies.

“We be­lieve James Mur­doch has ma­tured as a leader who un­der­stands the nec­es­sary changes in the dig­i­tal age,” An­thony DiCle­mente, me­dia an­a­lyst with No­mura Se­cu­ri­ties, said in a re­port. “We be­lieve share­hold­ers will largely ap­prove his ap­point­ment as CEO. We do not ex­pect any ma­jor near-term changes to strat­egy, par­tic­u­larly as Ru­pert Mur­doch will con­tinue to over­see some of the day-to­day op­er­at­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.”

AFP/Getty Images

RU­PERT MUR­DOCH plans to re­main ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of Fox.

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