Mr. MacKenzie, 47, starts this week as managing director of Mr. Murdoch's British Sky Broadcasting, succeeding Gary Davey, now chief executive of Star TV Asia, also controlled by Mr. Murdoch.
Although a newcomer to TV, Mr. MacKenzie is a proven genius at boosting audiences and profits, both crucial to Mr. Murdoch's fast-growing global TV empire. The mercurial Mr. MacKenzie, in 13 years as editor at The Sun, also owned by Mr. Murdoch, honed his ability to captivate the mass market.
At British Sky Broadcasting, he is expected to use his marketing flair to dramatically increase BSkyB's reach from the 3.5 million U.K. households it has today to something closer to the nation's 20 million TV homes.
With 80% of BSkyB's revenue coming from subscriber fees, every new satellite dish sold means more money for Mr. Murdoch. And more viewers for BSkyB's six channels will entice advertisers, so far cautious about spending serious money on satellite TV.
Mr. MacKenzie's banner headlines, taking up almost the entire front page of The Sun, attracted a pro-British, sensation-seeking working-class readership.
He once lambasted Jacques Delors, president of the European Union (the new name of the European Community) with "Up yours, Delors." When a married Cabinet minister resigned last year after details emerged of his affair with an actress, including that he liked to suck her toes, Mr. MacKenzie penned, "From toe job to no job."
The editor rarely let truth stand in the way of a good story. "Fred- die Starr ate my ham ster" was one legendary headline, even though the British stand-up comic did not, in fact, eat a hamster sandwich as the newspaper claimed.
Mr. MacKenzie also at tracts lawsuits. When the queen threatened legal action after The Sun leaked her 1992 annual Christmas speech, the pa per settled the case with a charitable donation.
Mr. MacKenzie refuses to grant interviews, de spite the media frenzy caused by his move to TV. One commentator told viewers Mr. Mac- Kenzie was responsible "for taking the gutter press into the sewer."
However downmarket he has led the U.K.'s most widely read newspaper, circulation is soaring while other papers are declining steadily. The Sun's daily circulation in December was 3.7 million, up 8% compared with year-earlier figures, while the rival Daily Mirror fell 8% to 2.4 million copies a day.
Mr. MacKenzie never seems to run out of promotional ideas, ranging from bingo-style games to a $1.5 million prize-never claimed-for anyone submitting a recent photograph of Elvis.
Mr. MacKenzie, who has three children and is separated from his wife, was night editor of the New York Post and Daily Express before joining The Sun as editor.