NEW YORK — Fox Television chairman Brian Mulligan resigned unexpectedly Wednesday, apparently burned out by nine months atop News Corp.’s wide-ranging TV operations, including the station group, sports and cable networks.
It’s not clear if his job will now be divvied up among current division heads or farmed to another outsider.
The Fox TV group houses a number of powerful execs with long resumes, including entertainment topper Sandy Grushow, station head Mitch Stern, sports topper Dave Hill and Fox News’ boss Roger Ailes.
All but Grushow report to Mulligan, 42, a well-liked former chief financial officer of Seagram and co-chair of Universal Pictures, but an exec with little hands-on experience in television. Some think that may have proved a greater liability than anticipated among such a seasoned crew. He and Grushow reported directly to News Corp. chief operating officer Peter Chernin, while Stern, Hill, Ailes, Fox sales chief Jon Nesvig, Fox Cable topper Jeff Shell and others reported to Mulligan.
Striking a balance
Mulligan said his exit was prompted by the need to “strike a better balance between my personal and professional life.”
“I appreciate the opportunity Rupert and Peter gave me, and the decision to leave was not easy,” said Mulligan. But he cited “years of non-stop travel and involvement with approximately $100 billion of transactions in my previous job, followed immediately by the demands” of the Fox post.
Chernin, who lured Mulligan to Fox last January, was said to be disappointed by Mulligan’s resignation. Mulligan won’t be paid out of the multi-year, multimillion-dollar contract he inked with News Corp. in January, sources said, indicating that his departure is indeed voluntary.
“I give him credit for saying, ‘I can’t live my life this way,’ ” one insider said. “It’s a big job. He made a decision to walk away as opposed to letting it bury him.”
He did receive a hefty severance package from his former bosses at Seagram, which he left only one year into a lucrative five-year contract. Mulligan was a key player in orchestrating Seagram’s sale to France’s Vivendi although the deal left him without an appropriate position in the merged company. He also guided Seagram’s landmark purchase of PolyGram and the sale of its domestic television assets to Barry Diller’s USA Networks.
At Fox Television, which has had a busy year so far, he oversaw the purchase of the Chris-Craft stations followed by a number of key station swaps, the sale of Fox Family and the continued growth of Fox News.
Mulligan’s last day at News Corp. will be Sept. 30, but he’ll continue as a consultant for an unspecified period, the company said.
Mulligan came to Fox to replace TV topper Chase Carey, who now oversees News Corp.’s international satellite business, Sky Global Networks.
(Michael Schneider in Los Angeles contributed to this report.)