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Updated: Chernin Watch: News Corp. COO Leaving; No Immediate Successor

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Now that the Oscars are over, we can return to another favorite Hollywood guessing game: is Peter Chernin staying on as COO and president of News Corp.? Nikki Finke says the answer is no and I believe this time she’s right; although I’m not certain of all the ins and outs, I expect an announcement soon. Finke reports that one of her most reliable sources says Chernin is leaving and will become a producer at Fox with what is undoubtedly the biggest and richest deal at the studio and network. No comment from News Corp (NYSE: NWS). (It’s a great day to be Nikki — she has the banner headline and a direct link from rival Sharon Waxman’s

Chernin’s future after 12 years as Rupert Murdoch’s second-in-command has been inextricably linked with that of the company, especially given Murdoch’s age — 77 to Chernin’s 57 — and a belief among analysts and investors that Murdoch’s son James, chairman and chief executive for Europe and Asia, is not ready to follow Chernin, let alone his father. In that sense, Chernin has played the role — highly functioning, to be sure — of investment security blanket, assuring that someone senior, capable and involved at every level could step in, g-d forbid.

Update: The LA Times, too, is reporting that Chernin is leaving “according to people familiar with the situation.” As expected by many, no immediate successor will be named; instead Murdoch is to pick up much of Chernin’s responsibilities. The arrangements were finalized over the weekend, according to the LAT. (CNBC is attributing the whole story to the LAT and “some other blogs.” Bad form.)

Photo Credit: David Geller