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Hope Hicks Hire Takes Fox Veterans by Surprise

New Fox is beginning to take shape. On Tuesday, Fox announced the appointment of three veteran execs to leadership roles in the company that will be left standing after the Walt Disney Co.’s acquisition of its film and television-studio operations closes. Rita Tuzon was named exec VP and corporate general counsel; Jill Ratner was named exec VP and chief litigation counsel; and Kevin Lord, exec VP of human resources for Fox News, will take over HR for the entire company.

But the biggest Fox remodeling move yet remains Monday’s appointment of former Trump White House aide Hope Hicks as exec VP and chief communications officer. The Hicks hire sent shockwaves through the Fox offices, surprising many. Company insiders who spoke with Variety expressed concern that Hicks — who once, according to the New York Times, admitted to House of Representatives investigators that she sometimes told so-called white lies on behalf of President Donald Trump — could prove a divisive presence in the company. But some remained cautiously optimistic that in a leaner Fox, Hicks will be able to operate effectively within a narrow purview.

The Hicks news in many ways overshadowed a long-anticipated announcement, also made Monday, about Peter Rice, Dana Walden, and multiple Fox television executives moving to Disney. (While Rice and Walden’s new roles had already been thoroughly reported on in the entertainment trade press for months, the Hicks hire was dropped without any advance warning — the surprise combining with her significant public profile for maximum impact). It was paired with announcement that Julie Henderson, a 12-year veteran of the company, would step down as head of corporate communications when the Disney deal closes, along with top lieutenant Nathaniel Brown. Henderson enjoys a strong relationship with Fox founder Rupert Murdoch and chairman and CEO Lachlan Murdoch, and informed them of her decision after the Disney deal was announced.

Key executives had not expected Henderson to continue with New Fox, whose assets will be roughly a third of the size of the current company’s. That smaller scope means that Hicks will not be stepping into a role with responsibilities as broad as that which Henderson now occupies. At age 29, Hicks has limited media-business experience, and has never run corporate communications for a publicly traded company before.

Reporting to Fox legal chief and policy adviser Viet Dinh, Hicks will join Fox in January and be based in Los Angeles. There she will join Lachlan Murdoch as the company shifts its corporate seat of power away from New York.

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