James Murdoch has finally gotten the nod from father Rupert -- or as close to a nod as anyone seems to have gotten yet. News Corp. has appointed the younger Mr. Murdoch to the curious new title of deputy chief operating officer, reporting to Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey; he will re-locate to the company's headquarters in New York. Mr. Murdoch was also named chairman-CEO for international.
It has long appeared that Mr. Murdoch, not his siblings Elisabeth and Lachlan, was the most likely successor to Rupert Murdoch's media empire, but this move is as close to an official anointment as there has been.
The bigger question now is what his expanding role at the company might mean for Mr. Carey, whom observers had also rated a "likely successor" to the CEO.
As a longtime News Corp. executive, Mr. Carey has been viewed as a loyal general in Rupert Murdoch's kingdom, beginning his career at the company with Fox in 1988 and eventually rising to become its chief executive. In 2003, Mr. Carey moved over to head up News Corp.'s DirectTV, and after COO Peter Chernin announced he would be leaving the company after his contract expired in June 2009, Rupert Murdoch tapped Mr. Carey to be his second-in-command.
The political jockeying around Mr. Chernin's tenure at News Corp. might offer some insight on Mr. Carey's current position now that he's got a deputy in James Murdoch.
Despite Mr. Chernin's deft executive hand managing a massive media company day to day, insiders said his exit was prompted by the reality that he was never going to succeed the elder Mr. Murdoch.
For a brief period, Mr. Murdoch considered leaving Mr. Chernin's vacated post unfilled, but then settled on Mr. Carey, who is seen as a News Corp. man through and through. Now James Murdoch's title of deputy COO suggests a transition to full COO at some point. Where Mr. Carey will be if that happens is unclear.
Despite Mr. Murdoch's newly elevated status, he will still have to jockey for position amongst a few other high-powered suits at the company. Fox Filmed Entertainment co-chairmen Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman both report directly to Rupert Murdoch, as does Fox Networks Group Chairman Tony Vinciquerra and Chief Digital Officer Jon Miller.
James Murdoch has held a variety of roles at News Corp. He has been chairman-CEO for Europe and Asia as well as executive chairman for News International since 2007, responsible for developing the company's TV, newspaper and digital assets in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
He was previously CEO at News Corp.'s BSkyB and head of the company's Asian TV group Star. He joined News Corp. in 1996 as an exec VP in New York.