Rupert Murdoch is preparing to step down as CEO of 21st Century Fox and hand the reins to his son James, according to CNBC’s David Faber. James Murdoch, currently co-chief operating officer of the programming giant, has been groomed for the position for years.
According to Faber, Fox COO Chase Carey also is stepping down from the company and will serve in an advisory role. Rupert Murdoch would continue as executive chairman, while his other son Lachlan, currently non-executive co-chairman of the company, would serve as co-executive chairman.
Faber, citing numerous sources inside the company, said it is unclear whether the transition would occur this year or in early 2016.
In a statement, 21st Century Fox said “The matter of succession is on the agenda at our upcoming, regularly scheduled board meeting.”
Rupert Murdoch has been the relentless driving force behind 21st Century Fox, which up until 2013 was housed under the News Corp. umbrella. The company split in two that year, with its publishing assets – including newspapers the London Times, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post -- housed within News Corp. Its television stations, the Fox Broadcasting network, cable channels like FX, Fox News Channel and Fox Sports and the 20th Century Fox movie studio were placed within 21st Century Fox.
James Murdoch has been groomed to take over the reins of the company for years, serving stints at its Asian operations (Star TV) and as chairman and CEO of its U.K. satellite TV business – British Sky Broadcasting. James Murdoch also was responsible for its newspaper operations within News Corp. and faced sharp criticism in the wake of the phone hacking scandal at its British tabloid News of the World. James and his father were hauled before British Parliament and subjected to intense questioning from officials. While neither was accused of wrongdoing, James Murdoch has reportedly been working hard to repair the damage to his reputation the scandal inflicted.
And though he will be giving up the CEO role, Rupert, as executive chairman, will still have the last say in making major decisions.
Still, the new structure is expected to be modeled after the current relationship the chairman has with Carey, with one concentrating on day-to-day operations and the other focusing more on longer-term issues. Carey, who signed a new employment agreement last year that allowed him to exit the company early, has agreed to stay on at least through 2016 to help with the transitions, according to reports.
Succession issues have come to the forefront in recent years for the 84-year-old patriarch. Lachlan, who earlier in the past decade had been seen as the leader for the top spot, left the company for nine years to head up his own investment company in Australia. He returned to the company in 2014, becoming non-executive chairman of both News Corp. and 21st Century Fox.
According to reports, Rupert Murdoch first started to discuss the succession plans in 2014. The 84-year-old Murdoch is said to be in good health and is a common sight at News Corp. and Fox offices.
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