Thirty-six-year-old James Murdoch only stepped up to be a News Corp (NYSE: NWS) exec 14 months ago; now he’s being touted as the “likeliest” successor to his father’s deputy, outgoing COO Peter Chernin.
Australian Associated Press (AAP): “Market speculation centres on James, who is in charge of the businesses in Europe and Asia, rather than Lachlan, who appears settled in Sydney with his family and running his own media investment business.” Media analyst Peter Cox in the Murdoch’s native Australia told AAP: “James is obviously the one that puts himself in that firing line. I’m sure he would be seeking the job. Lachlan seems to have stepped away from wanting to do those things.”
Lachlan resigned exec posts in 2005 though remains on the board. Teathers media analyst Andrew Walsh told paidContent:UK: “If you look at the psychology of Rupert, with respect to the inheritance issues over (Rupert’s father) Sir Keith Murdoch’s estate, he is all about family succession. Once you see it this way, the James Murdoch COO issue is inevitable and the Chernin departure is highly understandable.”
Said to have been the brightest but most rebellious of Rupert’s children, James started a hip-hop label that sold to his father’s firm and, once inside, directed News Corp.’s online operations at a time when ‘the old man” was still skeptical. But James really cut his teeth at BSkyB (NYSE: BSY), joining as CEO in 2003, after three years chairing Star TV in Hong Kong. The young chief exec didn’t just consolidate the satcaster’s position as the UK’s leading pay-TV operator, leveraging expensive soccer rights, but pushed it to become one of its leading ISPs and telcos, too.
Murdoch graduated in December 2007, aged 34, to lead all of News Corp’s Europe, Asia and Mid-East activities – including News International, BSkyB, Star. He promptly upped Sky Italia CEO Tom Mockridge to head all Europe-wide TV ops, saw News Corp bring its Berlin-based Jamba mobile house closer in to Fox Mobile and has at least oversight of Dow Jones’ current push in to Europe, China and India.
James’ CV isn’t all good. Whilst reports of earlier indiscretions (he’s said to have fallen asleep at a press conference whilst serving as a newspaper intern) center on his teenage years, they also point to his online investment tenure. BBC “At one point, James reportedly tried to persuade Murdoch senior to part with $450 million for an internet business called Pointcast, which was later sold to another company for $7 million.” James’ corporate experience in the world outside News Corp isn’t lengthy and Sky, whilst successful under him, was steered in to some of its most torrid regulatory waters ever.
Still, in-house experience and challenging the regulators are considered virtually badges of honor in the Murdoch family business. James moving to COO may have the consequence of pulling Mockridge up to lead News Corp EMEA and BSkyB CEO Jeremy Darroch up to replace Mockridge at the European TV helm, leaving BSkyB in search of new leadership.