With no major fires raging at the moment, Tony Vinciquerra figured now was the moment to jump.
Vinciquerra said Thursday that he would depart as chairman and CEO of Fox Networks Group next month after eight years overseeing the Fox network and most of its cable and international channels. There had been rumblings about Vinciquerra’s possible departure ever since Chase Carey returned to the News Corp. fold in mid-2009 following Peter Chernin’s exit as Rupert Murdoch’s top lieutenant, though Fox insiders were emphatic that Vinciquerra’s decision to step down was his own.
Vinciquerra’s departure, set for Feb. 11, has triggered an exec shuffle that will see Fox Intl. Channels prexy David Haslingden relocate from Australia to Los Angeles to serve as prexy and chief operating officer of Fox Networks Group. He’ll oversee business operations, strategic development and other corporate functions for the Fox Networks Group cablers.
Peter Rice, chairman of entertainment for the group, Fox Sports Media Group chairman David Hill and Mike Hopkins, prexy of affiliate sales and marketing, will now report directly to Carey, News Corp.’s prexy and chief operating officer.
Vinciquerra told Daily Variety he intends to take some time off and figure out his next move. He said he’s been intrigued by the opportunities available in the broadband arena, as he’s observed in his exec role and as a member of Motorola’s board of directors. And there are no shortage of opportunities in the private equity world for execs with his skill set.
Vinciquerra said the time was ripe for him to make a graceful exit from the Fox lot as there are no monumental issues pending for the company — at least none on the foreseeable horizon. Wrapping up the transition at the top of the Fox network’s ad sales team was among Vinciquerra’s last major priorities. Longtime Fox sales topper Jon Nesvig retired at the end of last year and was replaced in November by Toby Byrne.
“I haven’t taken any real time off since I was about 12 years old. I felt now was a good time because there’s nothing all that critical facing us right at the moment,” Vinciquerra said. “One of the things I feel best about is leaving the company in extremely good hands. All the people who are getting new responsibilities are very talented, and I’ve loved working with them.”
During Vinciquerra’s tenure at Fox, the cable and international operations have expanded to become “one of News Corporation’s biggest growth drivers,” Carey wrote in a memo to staff.
In recent months, Carey and Vinciquerra led the charge on lucrative retransmission consent deals with major cable and satellite operators that proved groundbreaking for the broadcasting biz, setting the template for major station owners. Vinciquerra noted in his exit memo to his staff that through Fox’s determination to wring coin out of subscription TV providers, “we’ve changed the financial structure of broadcast television in America.”
Among other changes in the shuffle, Hill will take on oversight of Fox’s interest in its National Geographic Channels domestic joint venture and have a seat on its board, along with Haslingden and Hopkins.
With Haslingden’s promotion, Hernan Lopez has been upped to fill the role as Fox Intl. Channels prexy.
Fox Sports presidents Randy Freer and Eric Shanks will take on additional responsibilities and the new shared title of co-president and COO of Fox Sports Media Group. They’ll oversee the sports cablers, including Speed, Fuel and Fox’s regional outlets, and they’ll will have responsibility for all digital ventures. Hopkins will also gain responsibility for developing digital ventures tied to FNG cablers, which include FX, Fox Movie Channel and National Geographic Channel.
Amid the shuffle, Hill will take on oversight of Fox’s interest in the National Geographic Channels domestic joint venture and have a seat on its board, along with Haslingden and Hopkins.
Vinciquerra first joined Fox in December 2001 as prexy of the Fox Television Network. His savvy in the broadcasting and distribution arena impressed News Corp. boss Rupert Murdoch and he was quickly promoted to CEO of the Fox Networks Group in June 2002. He added the chairman title in 2008.
Before Fox, Vinciquerra was a senior exec at Hearst-Argyle Television and at CBS. He spent seven years as the veep and g.m. of CBS affil KYW-TV Philadelphia in the late 1980s and early ’90s, and before that he was veep and sales manager of WBZ-TV Boston.
“Tony has done an outstanding job building the Fox Networks Group into a powerful and important asset for the company,” Carey said in a statement.