Wall Street analysts weren’t surprised that Rupert Murdoch had promoted his sons to top jobs at 21st Century Fox, noting that Murdoch had long promised to leave his company to his children.
But it certainly didn’t light up any enthusiasm on the Street. As the company announced that Rupert Murdoch’s sons have ascended, his companies’ stocks edged down slightly on a day that was down day for media companies in general.
James Murdoch is now the co-chief operating officer of 21st Century Fox, while Lachlan Murdoch was named non-executive co-chairman of both 21st and News Corp.
“I think there’s no surprise here,” Lisa Martin, an analyst with investment banking and asset management firm Needham, told TheWrap. “I think Rupert is increasing operating control to his family and he’s been consistent in saying that he wants to leave his legacy to his kids.”
“I think they’re both extremely competent and hard working, and obviously they’ve had opportunities that other people wouldn’t have had, but you can’t really fault that,” said Matt Harrigan, an analyst with Wunderlich Securities. “It’s just really in the DNA, it’s Murdoch’s company and I don’t think anyone following them for very long should have been too surprised.”
Meanwhile, Fox’s long-standing COO, Chase Carey, is close to sealing a new deal to stay at the company.
“We are in the process of finalizing Chase’s extended employment agreement and are confident it will be completed shortly,” a spokesman for 21st Century Fox told TheWrap.
That news jives with Harrigan’s take on the long-time executive.
“I think Chase is extremely flexible and very loyal, and I think he’s still relatively young but I think he’ll be there a long time,” the analyst said. “I think he probably takes genuine pride in long-term in mentoring James and Lachlan, even though they’re already at an extremely high level. Chase is a pretty balanced, pretty sane guy and I don’t think he’s doing somersaults emotionally at all. I think he’s been doing this a long time and he appreciates the company and I think he’s probably just as dedicated as Rupert is to the long-term success.”
James was forced to resign from his role as chairman of BSkyB, as well as his role as head of News Group Newspapers, due to the hacking scandal in the UK several years ago. That led to speculation that Lachlan was in the lead to be Rupert’s successor.
But given James’ portfolio — he spent years growing the international broadcasting business — and temperament, Harrigan thinks he is still the likely choice.
“He certainly rankled people when he was running Sky, no question about that, but that was a while ago and I think he’s shown some more balance,” Harigan said. “He’s definitely got more of an artistic temperament than Lachlan. Lachlan is a very buttoned-down and corporate guy and James is a little bit more conceptual and aggressive.”
He added: “I think James would be probably the operational guy on a day-to-day basis. I think Lachlan by virtue of past experience has seemingly sometimes shown a desire to withdraw and you can’t do that when you’re a CEO. I think James is probably the more tenacious and probably has more thicker skin than people think.”
Martin said she wished Murdoch’s daughter was in the running. Elisabeth Murdoch is the chairman of the production company Shine Limited.
“I wish he was more gender neutral, I wish he was bringing Elisabeth back, too,” she said.