Rupert replaced by youngest son

James Murdoch is replacing his father Rupert Murdoch as president of Sky Italia, the Italo paybox launched five years ago as News Corp.’s biggest pay TV push in continental Europe.

The appointment of Murdoch, 35, comes just six months after he took the reins of News Corp.’s Asian and European operations and caps moves indicating he is the global media empire’s heir apparent. Previously he topped Blighty satcaster BSkyB.

Milan-based Sky Italia, the country’s only satellite pay TV operator, is effectively managed by CEO Tom Mockridge.

Sky Italia has seen a steady growth in subscribers — now at 4.5 million — and profitability, as of fiscal 2006. Sky Italia in May posted a $97 million third-quarter operating income, according to News Corp.

Mockridge also is CEO of News Corp.’s newly created European Television unit, managing the group’s expansion on the continent, especially in Germany, where News Corp. is trying to gain control of pay TV operator Premiere, in which it owns a 25% stake.

Milan is becoming the center of operations of News Corp.’s continental European expansion, which includes interests in Bulgaria, Poland and Turkey.

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