*News Corp.* vet and *DirecTV* CEO Chase Carey could be headed back to the mother ship as the latest in a series of management shifts following Peter Chernin’s decision to leave as president and COO. TheWrap reported late Sunday that Rupert Murdoch wants to bring Carey, the company’s former co-COO, back to News Corp (NYSE: NWS). as a Chernin successor with the title of vice chairman; Murdoch is chairman and CEO. paidContent has confirmed that is the goal but it is not a done deal.
Unlike Chernin, who was directly responsible from his Los Angeles base for the studios and U.S. networks, Carey would work with Murdoch in New York and be involved company-wide as more of an assistant. My understanding is the L.A. businesses would report to Carey but would retain direct access to Murdoch.
The main sticking point? Carey’s contract with DirecTV (NYSE: DTV), which is majority owned by Liberty Media (NSDQ: LINTA) now and is in the midst of a complicated merger with Liberty Entertainment that is not expected to close until late this year. According to SEC documents dated April 20, 2009, Carey’s employment agreement runs through Dec. 31, 2010. He also has a 12-month non-compete clause.
— Carey fits right in: Carey knows News Corp in a way few can match: he was on the board while News Corp. held the majority interest in DirecTV; from 1996 through 2002 he was an executive director and Co-COO of News and before that he served in senior, lead or advisory roles at Sky Global Networks; Fox Entertainment Group; Fox Television; News America; Star; NDS; and BSkyB (NYSE: BSY). TheWrap reports that he was Murdoch’s choice all along to succeed Chernin. Carey worked closely with Chernin and served as co-COO during the first part of Chernin’s tenure as president and COO; the two were part of an office of the chairman but Carey couldn’t go farther while Chernin was in place.
Carey’s six years running DirecTV both for News Corp. and for Liberty add to his appeal, as does his success working directly with both Rupert Murdoch and John Malone — and negotiating the settlement that got News Corp’s stock back in exchange for the interest in DirecTV and other assets. He’s a dealmaker described to me by someone who has worked for both to be “as smart as Chernin.” He likely would be received well in and outside the company, although I’ve already heard some astonishment that he would give up his current gig to return.
But Murdoch also acted quickly to set up a new structure for Chernin’s direct responsibilities that could work — at least, for the near term — with or without someone in a #2 role. The LA-based creative production divisions were combined under a single unit reporting to Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman, co-chairmen of Fox Filmed Entertainment; while Tony Vinciquerra, chairman of the Fox Networks Group, added responsibility for Fox Broadcasting programming. All three report directly to Murdoch. He then brought in Jon Miller as chief digital officer and head of Fox Interactive Media, also a direct report.
— Still room for James: Adding the veteran Carey, who is 55, into the new structure near the top would provide investors some security given Murdoch’s unwillingness at age 78 to designate a successor, but still would leave room for son James Murdoch, currently viewed as the family member most likely to succeed his father, to come in eventually as president and or COO. James Murdoch has been increasing power and responsibility in recent years; a member of the News Corp. board, he is now chairman and chief executive, Europe and Asia. His brother Lachlan, who left News Corp. as an exec, is also on the board. Sister Elisabeth reportedly turned down a seat on the board because it could cost her the majority interest in her production company Shine.