News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch has shuffled the top management of the Hong Kong-based Star TV satellite network, replacing hand-picked executive James F. Griffiths with former British Sky Broadcasting deputy managing director Gary Davey.

Griffiths was on the job at Star TV for five months.

Spokesman Dennis Petroskey confirmed Griffiths had left hisposition at Star TV to take a senior veepee post at Fox Inc., a division of News Corp. Griffiths was president of pay TV and international homevideo for 20th Century Fox before being named managing director of Star TV.

The abrupt move comes amid reports that Murdoch has made the upgrading of Star TV — and its entry into China — a top priority. The Australian mogul reportedly spent several days in Hong Kong over the holidays and expects to spend much of his time over the next two months working on Star TV.

Lacking trench time

A source close to the operation in Hong Kong suggested that Griffiths, whose background is in international homevideo and pay TV sales, did not have enough “hands-on experience in the trenches” launching or upgrading a satellite venture in foreign territories.

Griffiths had relocated to Hong Kong in September. Another source, however, said that News Corp. has a long-established practice of moving top execs around the global board for short stints, then bringing them back home.

Reached at the Four Seasons Hotel late Wednesday, Davey confirmed that he has been named chief executive of Star TV.

Davey said one of his chief challenges will be to learn the ins and outs of the Asian markets in which Star TV will operate.

Country by country

“Every country we are dealing with has a different set of regulatory issues on their agenda,” Davey said. “We intend making ourselves a welcome invitee into the territories. We don’t intend being hostile in any way.”

Davey was joint managing director and programming director for Murdoch’s direct-to-home Sky Television network in its early days of operation.

He is the fourth top exec at Star TV since Hong Kong billionaire Li Kashing set up the network in 1991. Griffiths replaced Julian Mounter when Murdoch bought a 63.3% interest last August.

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