Murdoch Adds to Execs’ Plates as Chernin Exits
Liguori out in restructure; Vinciquerra adds duties, Rice moves in from film
By Claire Atkinson -- Broadcasting & Cable, 3/12/2009 5:59:19 PM
News Corp. chairman and chief executive Rupert Murdoch didn’t waste a minute restructuring his company in the wake of Peter Chernin's resignation less than a month ago. And it looks like he isn't appointing a number two any time soon.
Employing a classic CEO strategy, Murdoch has given a small cadre of executives additional responsibilities rather than name a new number two. He’s also expected take more direct control of the company himself.
Effective immediately, the News Corp.'s creative engine will be run by film co-chairmen Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman, who get to run both movie and TV production from Los Angeles.
At the same time, Peter Liguori, has been ousted as chairman of entertainment for Fox Broadcasting with cable chief Tony Vinciquerra taking charge of Fox broadcast network programming. Vinciquerra already runs the business side of the network and has been a familiar presence at the ad circuit.
Reporting to Vinciquerra is Liguori's replacement, Peter Rice, currently Fox Searchlight president, and champion of Oscar-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire. Murdoch commented, "I'm convinced Peter Rice is the right person to transform our broadcast television business."
On hearing of Liguori's departure one advertising agency executive simply responded, "I'm speechless.”
The promotion of Vinciquerra is no doubt a nod to the stellar growth delivered by Fox’s cable assets. In the quarter to December 31, cable’s operating income rose by 27%, while TV segment income was down $227 million to $18 million. Gary Newman and Dana Walden, co-chairmen of Twentieth Century Fox Television, will report to Gianopulos and Rothman.
In addition to Vinciquerra, Gianopulos and Rothman, Peter Levinsohn, who heads interactive, and Roger Ailes, head of Fox News and the stations and syndication groups, continue to report to Murdoch with no change in their duties.
The restructuring indicates that a search for a second in command is not in the immediate cards and News Corp. officials have brushed off suggestions that heir James Murdoch, who currently runs Europe and Asia, would enter the number two slot.
Media analyst, Rich Greenfield of Pali Capital Research, recently wrote that following the departure of Chernin, who is currently president and COO, Rupert Murdoch would have as many as 18 direct reports. Greenfield said, "It's not surprising there needed to be consolidation. It makes sense and is logical. Rupert Murdoch is stepping up and taking full management control of the company."
Fox is about to begin selling its upcoming development slate in the May upfront and a fresh face with new ideas sometimes helps generate buzz. Rice's number one challenge is fixing Fox's perennially weak fourth quarter entertainment programming.
In an interview in January with Broadcasting & Cable, Liguori was asked if there was enough for both him and Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly to do and how they split their responsibilities. He responded, "Kevin knows when something should come to me and in what form, and with a clearer head and a bit more objectivity I'm able to work with him. We do want Fox to be No. 1. We do want great shows. But more importantly, when it's done, we want to go home to screaming kids and households and homework. We do have common goals."
Alex Weprin and John Eggerton contributed to this report.
Below is Rupert Murdoch's internal staff memo
Today I’m announcing a series of management changes to our LA-based businesses to ensure we’re well positioned to meet the challenges and opportunities we will face in the coming months. I have been deeply engaged with senior management to develop a renewed model on which to further grow and transform our business. Challenging economic times can yield great advancements and ultimately unleash new, innovative thinking. Ours is a company that has always thrived on change, so it’s with great enthusiasm that I share with you our initial plans for moving forward.
Effective immediately, all of our LA-based creative production businesses will be reporting to Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman, co-chairmen and CEOs of Fox Filmed Entertainment. Tom and Jim have built one of the most successful studios in the world, and I have full confidence in their ability to manage our film and television talent in transformative ways. Under this new structure, Gary Newman and Dana Walden, co-chairmen of Twentieth Century Fox Television, will report to Tom and Jim. Emiliano Calemzuk, president, Fox Television Studios, will report to Dana and Gary.
This new creative structure will enable us immediately to operate more efficiently. We will remove unnecessary barriers that have existed between our businesses, thereby better facilitating the sharing of ideas and resources. Not only will we benefit as a business from these changes, but perhaps most importantly, I’m certain our end users – the millions of people around the world who every day enjoy our creative products – will see the benefits as well.
On the television network side of the business, Tony Vinciquerra, chairman and CEO of Fox Networks Group, will continue to head the cable networks, the business aspects of FOX Broadcasting, Fox International Channels, and will gain responsibility for FOX Broadcasting programming. Tony has been instrumental in growing our cable businesses both domestically and internationally, and has been responsible for negotiating many of our landmark carriage and broadcast deals that have made us the leader in broadcast and cable television. As part of this restructuring, Peter Liguori has stepped down as chairman of entertainment, Fox Broadcasting. Under his leadership, FOX was the number one network four years in a row, and I am grateful for his many contributions.
Peter Rice, president of Fox Searchlight, will exit his role at the specialty label and will assume the role of chairman of entertainment, Fox Broadcasting. During his long and successful tenure at Fox Searchlight, Peter has been the driving force behind the success of the specialty film genre, shepherding to the screen some of the industry’s most successful films, including Slumdog Millionaire, Little Miss Sunshine, and Juno. Peter has the vision, creativity and determination to grow and remodel our television network, and I’m delighted he has accepted this new challenge. In this role, Peter will report directly to Tony Vinciquerra.
With Peter’s departure at Fox Searchlight, Nancy Utley and Steve Gilula will jointly run the business, reporting to Jim and Tom. Nancy and Steve, COOs of Fox Searchlight, who have been Peter’s partners through all of the unit’s great successes, will assume full authority for the business. Claudia Lewis, president of production, remains in place.
Roger Ailes, chairman and CEO of FOX News Channel and Fox Business Network and chairman of the Fox Television Stations and Twentieth Television, and Peter Levinsohn, president of Fox Interactive Media, will continue to report directly to me.
Please join me in congratulating Jim, Tom, Tony and Peter in their new roles.
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