Rupert Murdoch is reportedly preparing to step down as CEO of 21st Century Fox to hand off the title to his son James.
An announcement is expected in the near future, but it is uncertain if the changes in leadership roles will take place this year or in 2016, CNBC reported Thursday, citing sources close to the Murdoch family. The news is also being reported by the New York Times, citing people familiar with the matter. Rupert Murdoch will stay on Fox as its executive chairman and his elder son, Lachlan, would become an executive co-chairman. James Murdoch will be in charge of Fox’s day-to-day management, though he will work alongside with Lachlan and their father.
In addition, CNBC reported the company’s COO Chase Carey will step down and take on a different role. This would mean that Fox would no longer have any kind of senior management from outside of the Murdoch family. However, James Murdoch has a multitude of business experiences and backings from several prominent figures that will help him transition to his biggest business role yet.
After graduating from the Horace Mann School in New York City in 1991, James Murdoch attended Harvard University, where he studied film and history and worked at the college’s satirical magazine The Harvard Lampoon, according to BBC. He ended up dropping out of Harvard in 1995 and started a hip-hop record label called Rawkus with his friends. Rawkus was churning out about $2.5 million in profits a year when News Corporation, his father’s media conglomerate, later bought the label in 1998.
Murdoch ended up working within several division of News Corp. with mixed results. He had high points: he turned around News Corp.’s Asian satellite service StarTV, which was losing £100 million a year when he took over in 1999, according to BBC. And he had lows: an Australian telecoms venture he started with Lachlan and James Parker crashed and burned in 2001. But his success with News Corp’s entities in Asia helped him secure the role of CEO at British satellite broadcaster Sky, in which News Corp. was its biggest shareholder.
Murdoch was the chair at both News Corp.’s subsidiary News International and Sky when a phone hacking scandal engulfed the Murdoch family and News Corp. in 2012, as reported by The Christian Science Monitor. He served as New International’s chairman when journalists at The News of the World, News International’s UK tabloid newspaper, allegedly hacked phones and bribed officials. The scandal led to the newspaper’s closure.
He would eventually be cleared of any wrongdoing in the phone hacking scandal. In 2013, he and his brother joined 21st Century Fox as directors, and James became co-COO last year. Several powerful figures have expressed support for the younger Murdoch to take on a bigger role in his father’s company.
Like his father Rupert, James is very hardworking person, said Saad Mohseni, chairman and CEO of the Afghan media company Moby Group, in which Fox holds a stake. "He doesn't get the benefit of the doubt,” he said to Reuters in April 2015. “For him, every step of the way he has to prove himself."
Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who is friends with the Murdoch family and has a 6.6 percent voting stake in Fox, has been very clear that he wants James to step up at Fox.
"James is a giant!" the billionaire prince told Reuters in April 2015, adding that James understands the digital era’s effect on media. "I really love him!"