×

Rich Ross joins Liz Murdoch’s realm

Shine's latest high-profile hire underscores its autonomy at News Corp.

The appointment of former Disney Studios topper Rich Ross as Shine America CEO is the latest high-wattage hire by Elisabeth Murdoch’s Shine Group.

The growth of Shine America and its offshoots during the past two years has reinforced the assertions of autonomy that Elisabeth Murdoch and her father have made ever since News Corp. purchased Shine Group for $663 million in early 2011. The publicly-stated strategy has been

that Shine would remain entirely separate from other News Corp.

TV and film operations, giving it the best-of-both-worlds ability to draw on News Corp.’s deep pockets but the opportunistic nimbleness of an indie outfit, albeit a sizable one.

Observers have questioned the efficiency of having Shine operate as a sovereign state within the News Corp. empire, which has fueled speculation that Shine is a short-term part of the long-term answer to the generational succession issue that looms for the conglom that Rupert Murdoch built and controls as majority stakeholder. (At present Elisabeth Murdoch reports to News Corp. prexy Chase Carey.)

Within News Corp., there is no doubt that Shine is being built up for the long haul. Ross will assume his Shine America CEO post in January with a mandate to expand its scripted programming business. His hire comes a few months after Shine recruited NBCUniversal exec Vivi Zigler to run Shine America’s 360 and Digital unit devoted to branded entertainment, ancillary products, live events and digital ventures. Moreover, Shine America has brought in nearly a half-dozen mid-level creative and business-oriented execs in the past year.

As Shine America CEO, Ross will succeed Oz native Carl Fennessy, who plans to return to Australia to resume his role as joint-CEO of Shine Australia by the middle of next year.

Ross and Elisabeth Murdoch go back nearly 20 years when both were working on the launch of FX at News Corp., and the two have stayed friends over the years.

“I have known and admired Rich for many years,” Murdoch said in announcing the appointment. “He is a world-class executive and the ideal leader to build on our extraordinary momentum at Shine America.”

Fennessy’s plan had always been to return to Oz after he finished a reorg of Shine’s U.S. operations, which included the blending of Shine’s operations with Reveille.

Ross’ immediate focus will be working with Carolyn Bernstein, Shine America’s exec veep of scripted programming, in growing scripted TV development, with particular emphasis on developing properties derived from formats controlled by Shine’s global affiliates. The company already has a high-profile drama pilot in the works at FX, “The Bridge,” based on a Shine format that has been a hit in Scandinavia.

Shine already has a solid footprint in the U.S. TV market with unscripted series, including Fox’s “MasterChef,” NBC’s “Biggest Loser” and numerous cable series.

For Ross, the appeal of returning to the exec ranks at Shine is rooted in the company’s global approach to content creation. After a rocky 2½-year tenure as head of Disney’s film operations, Ross took the summer off to consider his next move. Murdoch reached out to him about joining Shine shortly after he left the Mouse House, and the discussions became serious during the past six weeks.

“I knew I wanted to work at a company that cares about the content it creates,” Ross told Variety. “I knew there was a unique opportunity to make great scripted content and reality content and have it go all over the world. Everybody’s talking about doing a global business model but only Liz and Shine have really put it together.”

Move to Shine returns Ross to his TV roots, though the company does have film development activity underway in the U.S. and other markets.

After being part of the FX launch team from 1993-96, Ross joined Disney Channels Worldwide as prexy and helped steer the cable group’s remarkable rise with original skeins and telepic franchises. In October 2009, he was tapped by Disney CEO Robert Iger to run the Mouse’s film division,

By many accounts, the segue to film was a rough one for Ross, who had the tough assignment of being a film biz outsider tasked with implementing major structural changes at the film studio right off the bat. By March, when Disney warned investors of a pending $200 million writedown on “John Carter,” Ross’ days on the Burbank lot were numbered.

“The journey of figuring out what’s next after you’ve worked for one company for a long time is definitely a process,” Ross said. “But Shine just semed to be a custom-fit for me. I feel like they are one step ahead of everyone else in being a global business. And to have the chance to work with someone I have so much respect for was too good to pass up.”

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Listen: 'Pennyworth' Producer Talks Delving into

    Listen: 'Pennyworth' Executive Producer Talks Delving into Alfred's Backstory

    Bruno Heller may have served as an executive producer on the Batman-inspired series “Gotham” for the past five years, but it’s actually real-life people (not superheroes) that intrigue the producer the most. It’s for that exact reason that Heller’s newest series finds him exploring the origin stories of Batman’s butler Alfred in the Epix drama [...]

  • "Trust Issues" - Dylan and Lizzie

    'Instinct' Canceled After Two Seasons

    CBS has canceled “Instinct” after two seasons. Series creator Michael Rauch announced the cancellation Friday on Twitter, writing, “I’m very sad to relay the news that @instinctcbs won’t be renewed for a 3rd season. We will double up this Sunday and our season/series finale will be Aug 25.” Rauch also thanked series stars Alan Cumming [...]

  • Maisel Day

    My Mostly OK Maisel Day (Column)

    When Amazon announced its first-ever Maisel Day, I was intrigued. For one day, Aug. 15, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” fans and Angelenos (fangelenos?) could hit up various restaurants, theaters and retailers throughout Los Angeles for special deals, all at 1959 prices. Among the gems: $2.50 makeovers, $0.99 pastrami sandwiches and $0.30 for a gallon of [...]

  • Nordisk Film & TV Fond Announces

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond Backs Joachim Trier, Ole Bornedal, Yellow Bird

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond has announced three features, two series and a documentary set to receive $1.4m in financing, as well as distribution, dubbing and cultural initiative support recipients. Doing so, it highlights some of the key titles moving forward in the Nordic region. Already backed by the Danish Film Institute’s largest ever grant [...]

  • TV News Roundup: 'Silicon Valley' Final

    TV News Roundup: 'Silicon Valley's' Final Season Sets October Premiere Date

    In today’s roundup, “Silicon Valley” returns to HBO on Oct. 27 and Quibi greenlights a new cooking competition show “Dismantled.” DATES The fifth season of Netflix‘s “Peaky Blinders” will premiere on the streamer Oct. 4. The newest season will continue to follow one gangster family in the lawless streets of Birmingham, UK during the midst [...]

  • Peter Fonda Dead: 'Easy Rider' Star

    Peter Fonda, Star of 'Easy Rider,' Dies at 79

    Two-time Oscar nominee Peter Fonda, who became a counterculture icon when he co-wrote, produced and starred in seminal 1969 road movie “Easy Rider,” then showed Hollywood he could act about three decades later in “Ulee’s Gold,” died on Friday from lung cancer at his home in Los Angeles. He was 79. His sister Jane Fonda [...]

  • CineLink Drama Brings High-End Series to

    CineLink Drama Brings High-End Series to Sarajevo

    When the organizers of the Sarajevo Film Festival’s CineLink Industry Days surveyed the local TV landscape several years ago, they recognized the chance to make an impact. “We decided five years ago that we need to do something,” says CineLink industry coordinator Armin Hadzic. “The [regional] TV and public broadcasters were coming from another age.” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content