21st Century Fox has confirmed the generational shakeup of its top management ranks starting July 1, with James Murdoch taking the CEO reins while Lachlan Murdoch becomes executive co-chairman alongside his father, Rupert Murdoch.
Fox said the company’s corporate, film and television operations will report jointly to James and Lachlan Murdoch. James will report to Rupert Murdoch and the board of directors, while Lachlan reports to the board of directors.
Chase Carey will segue from chief operating officer to executive vice chairman, serving in that role through June 30, 2016. The management shifts were formally approved at a Fox board meeting in New York on Tuesday.
“It has always been our priority to ensure stable, long-term leadership for the company, and these appointments achieve that goal,” said Rupert Murdoch in a statement announcing the changes to the company he built during the past half-century. “Lachlan and James are each talented and accomplished executives and together, we, as shareholders and partners, will strive to take our company to new levels of growth and opportunity at a time of dynamic change in our industry.”
Beyond prepared statements, the Murdochs and Carey declined requests for interviews Tuesday.
In a lengthy joint statement, the brothers said they were “humbled” by the responsibility that they are about to inherit.
“We are both humbled by the opportunity to lead, with our father and the talented team of executives at 21st Century Fox, this extraordinary company.
“We are grateful to Chase for being the leader and partner that he has been, and we are both delighted that his wisdom and sure-handedness will continue to serve 21st Century Fox. We are also grateful to the board for providing us the opportunity to lead this great company.
“Most importantly, we each look forward to working with the entire team of creators, executives, artists and all of our colleagues that make up our global businesses, to steer the company into the future, and to drive continued value for our shareholders.”
In a memo to Fox staffers, Rupert Murdoch expanded on what he sees as the benefits of bringing in the next generation of leadership.
“Lachlan and James understand the opportunities that exist in advancing the way in which our stories reach consumers, and the board and I are energized by their vision and their leadership,” he wrote.
Rupert Murdoch thanked Carey for his stewardship of the company as COO during the past six years. Carey’s tenure with Murdoch and the former News Corp. goes back to 1988 and the early days of the Fox broadcast network.
“I can’t thank Chase Carey enough for his friendship, counsel and leadership over the past decades. He will be actively engaged in supporting Lachlan and James as they step in to their new roles,” Rupert Murdoch said.
The timing of the shuffle was triggered in part by Carey’s existing contract, which called for him to alert the company by June 30 if he planned to take advantage of a clause that would allow him to exit at year’s end. His decision to stay on in an advisory role will help ease any investor concerns about the transition in senior management from Rupert Murdoch and Carey to James, 42, and Lachlan, 43.
“I am grateful to Rupert for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime and truly believe there isn’t a company out there that’s more exciting, with more growth potential, than 21st Century Fox. I look forward to continuing to work with Rupert to support Lachlan and James in their new positions,” Carey said.
James has spent the past four years as deputy and co-COO of the company working under Carey. Lachlan returned to the fold in March 2014 when he was named non-executive chairman of Fox and its sibling News Corp. Lachlan will remain in his role as non-exec chairman and board member of News Corp. Lachlan has been a Fox board member since 1996; James joined the board in 2007.
Lachlan will be based in Los Angeles; James will remain in New York, although sources note that both will spend a lot of time on both coasts, just as James and Rupert have been bicoastal in recent years.
The subject of succession has been a source of drama for Murdoch’s empire for years. At various times during the past decade, James, Lachlan and their sister Elisabeth have been seen as the favored candidates to take over. Sources close to Fox have emphasized that Rupert’s sees the structure unveiled Tuesday as a means of having James and Lachlan jointly run the ship in the same way that he and Carey have worked hand-in-glove the past few years, with James focusing more on operational matters and Lachlan focusing on long-term strategy.
Rod Eddington, 21st Century Fox’s lead outside board member, endorsed the appointments of the brothers in a statement.
“The board has long been focused on succession, and we’re fortunate to have two very talented executives in Lachlan and James to take this company into the future,” he said. “Working in tandem with Rupert, we’re confident their partnership and stewardship will give this business real momentum for many years to come. We are also deeply grateful to Chase Carey for his many years of exceptional leadership and his agreement to continue his contributions through his new position.”
(Pictured: Lachlan Murdoch, James Murdoch)