Ex-COO sez it's 'the right time to take a step back'

With little left for the Hollywood vet to do since the scuttling of Rupert Murdoch’s global satcasting venture, News Corp. co-chief operating officer Chase Carey ankled Thursday.

No official reason was given for the departure and a successor wasn’t named. Carey will remain a director and consultant.

“It is with great regret that I accept Chase’s decision to resign,” Murdoch said in a statement. “Chase’s vision, energy and leadership helped transform News Corp. into a global leader in broadcast and pay television.”

What he wasn’t able to do was help Murdoch launch the planned Sky Global Networks — or even get the venture much off of the drawing board. That dream was dashed in October when General Motors decided to sell satcaster DirecTV to EchoStar Communications instead of News Corp., eliminating a key U.S. linchpin in the Sky Global scheme.

“I want to thank Rupert for the opportunity to be an integral part of this challenge,” said Carey, who held the dual titles of News Corp. co-chief operating officer and Sky Global CEO.

He called it “the right time to take a step back and catch my breath with confidence that bigger and better things lay ahead for News Corp.”

Global ambitions

In an interview, Carey acknowledged he’d left News Corp. largely because of the collapse of Sky Global. He was the sole remaining employee of fledgling Sky Global, which Murdoch once hoped to spin off as a separate public company.

“Rupert and I discussed an array of other things, but it didn’t make sense for me to go back and do old things,” he said.

Carey declined to address specifically speculation that he’d consider a top exec post at cable systems operator Cablevision. News Corp.’s Fox Television and the Long Island, N.Y.-based company have done several output deals over the years; the companies are partners in the Madison Square Garden group of businesses; and Carey now lives in Gotham.

“At this point, I’m going to discipline myself where I’m not considering one, two, three, four specific opportunities,” he said. “I have no specific direction or a defined place I’m going to be. I want to take a bit of time and try and see what I’m going to do next.”

For years, Carey was a prominent, walrus-mustached presence at any gathering of industry bigwigs, but more recently, he seemed overshadowed by rising News Corp. star and co-chief operating officer Peter Chernin. As a result, speculation about Carey’s possible departure had begun to circulate before he was named chief of the planned Sky Global venture in 2000.

On the rise

It’s a reflection of the initiative’s size and scope — as well as its importance to Murdoch — that Carey’s elevation immediately turned that talk on its head. Suddenly, he was considered ideally positioned to become Murdoch’s chief exec ally at News Corp.

Carey, named co-chief operating officer in 1996, previously had been chairman-CEO of Fox Television since 1994 and before that was its chief financial officer. He joined Fox as an exec veep in 1988.

Wall Street seemed unshaken by news of Carey’s departure. News Corp. stock closed up 13¢ at $28.73 on Thursday, and shares in Fox Entertainment fell 3¢ to $22.50.

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