In Latest Shuffle, Fox Tries Cooking With Rice

The latest management shakeup at News Corp. (detailed by my colleagues Michael Schneider and Tatiana Siegel) has resulted in another slightly unorthodox executive reshuffling from Rupert Murdoch, placing Fox Searchlight’s Peter Rice in charge of the Fox network as chairman of Fox Entertainment.

This got me to thinking about the last 20 years at what was once called the Fox Broadcasting Co., which has a history of reaching beyond the roster of TV industry usual suspects in choosing presidents and chairman. Please forgive me if I miss anybody, but my list of the last two decades goes as follows — and given that my first stint at Variety began in ’87, it’s also like watching my professional life flash before my eyes.

Peter Chernin (1989-92) — His bosses Barry Diller and Jamie Kellner, who launched the network in 1986-87, left in ’93. Chernin, of course, recently announced his departure as News Corp.’s president, setting the latest chain of events in motion.
Sandy Grushow (1992-94)
Lucie Salhany (1993-94)
Chase Carey (1993-2000)
David Evans (1993-95)
John Matoian (1994-96)

David Hill (1995-99)
Peter Roth (1996-98)
Larry Jacobson (1997-2000)


Doug Herzog (1998-2000)

Sandy Grushow (2000-04) — Yep, he came back.
Brian Mulligan (2000-01)

Gail Berman (2000-05)

Tony Vinciquerra (2001-?)
Ed Wilson (2004-08)
Peter Liguori (2005-09)
Kevin Reilly (2007-?)
Peter Rice (2009-?)
Aside from the fairly constant level of churn — about on par with the House of Representatives, minus the benefits of incumbency — you’ll notice a couple of interesting footnotes here.
John Matoian was a former CBS TV movie executive, who had been happily running Fox’s family-film unit before semi-reluctantly being drafted to run the network’s entertainment arm. Doug Herzog was wooed away from basic cable (to which he successfully returned).Gail Berman actually had a theatrical background before segueing to the TV production side at Regency Television, where she spent only a few years before landing at Fox. David Hill had been running Fox Sports, and returned to it, remaining a trusted Murdoch lieutenant.
Rice’s movie background, in other words, follows a number of at least marginally out-of-the-box choices to chart Fox’s programming direction. The constants have been Murdoch and Chernin, whose influence — having held that job — was considerable.
Mostly, what this says is that Murdoch likes to keep a fresh set of eyes at the network, and that he believes smart executives can excel there, regardless of their background.
And if they don’t, well, the above list will just get a little longer.

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