NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Peter Chernin, the News Corp. executive who has helped the company build a presence in Hollywood as well as cable and broadcast TV, will leave the giant media conglomerate, controlled by iconoclast Rupert Murdoch, in June, the company said in a statement Feb. 23.
Speculation has been rampant that Mr. Chernin, 57 years old, would leave; his contract with the company was set to expire this year and he has in recent months been involved with negotiations. News Corp. said Mr. Murdoch, the media giant.'s chairman-CEO, will assume oversight the company's Los Angles-based businesses, which include movie studio 20th Century Fox, the Fox broadcast network, and the FX cable network.
Mr. Chernin's departure comes as the company is striving to muddle through a difficult economic climate for media companies. News Corp. shares closed at $6.39 a share today, well off a 52-week high of $20.35. The company's traditional media properties, like many other media conglomerates, have suffered as advertisers pull back on spending.
Speaking during a recent conference call with investors, Mr. Murdoch said the current economic climate "reflects a recession that is deeper than anyone predicted," and his company "may never return to record levels." But he also predicted that his company's willingness to try new ideas and avoid sticking too close to conventional wisdom would help News Corp. rebound and capture more ad dollars when spending resumes.
Mr. Murdoch has been spending lots of time helping to run Dow Jones and its Wall Street Journal, which News Corp. acquired for $5 billion at the end of 2007. Mr. Chernin's departure means Mr. Murdoch will have to pay increased attention to News Corp.'s entertainment assets, as well as the newspapers that were the foundation of the company.
In a prepared statement, Mr. Murdoch said that he and Mr. Chernin "will work closely over the next four months to ensure an effective transition."
Mr. Chernin will launch a Fox-based production company later this year, News Corp. said, among other ventures.
Mr. Chernin joined News Corp. in 1989 and has served as president-chief oeprating officer since October 1996. During his two decades with the company, Mr. Chernin headed both Twentieth Century Fox Filmed Entertainment and, earlier, the Fox Broadcasting Co.