News Corp. Names Rupert Murdoch’s Son James Its Deputy COO, International Chief

Move puts James closer to company’s throne; will “work closely” with father

The sometimes-murky line of succession at News Corp. just got a little clearer.

News Corp. named James Murdoch, the 38-year-old son of chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch, as its deputy chief operating officer and international CEO on Wednesday. The newly-created title was created just for James, News Corp. said.

In it, James will "bring his significant operational expertise to bear across News Corporation’s broad asset portfolio, collaborating with senior leaders to develop and execute strategies and plans that strengthen and further evolve businesses, extend brands, and build new franchises." He'll continue oversee News Corp.'s Europe and Asia businesses and continue to report to News Corp. deputy chairman, president and COO Chase Carey. James will also "work closely with Rupert Murdoch."

News Corp. declined to make either James or Rupert Murdoch available for interviews on Wednesday.

James — who is seen as the likely heir to Rupe's News Corp. throne — first joined the company in 1996, and has spent the past 15 years in senior positions at the company, most recently as chairman and chief executive, Europe and Asia and executive chairman, News International, a role he's held since 2007. The London-based James will relocate to New York for the position, News Corp. said.

Despite the pedigree, the move will undoubtedly fuel critics that claim Murdoch is playing blood favorites.

Earlier this month, a group of News Corp. shareholders sued the board of directors over its $675 million agreement to buy Shine Group, the television production company owned by Murdoch's daughter Elisabeth.

The lawsuit accused the News Corp. board of "paying for nepotism" and not questioning Rupert Murdoch, its chairman.

"In short, Murdoch is causing News Corp to pay $675 million for nepotism," the lawsuit claimed. "In addition to larding the executive ranks of the company with his offspring, Murdoch constantly engages in transactions designed to benefit family members."

A spokesperson for News Corp. called the suit "meritless."

As part of that deal, which is expected to close this month, Elisabeth Murdoch will get a seat on the News Corp. board — which has led some to speculate that Elisabeth, 42, is being groomed to take over for Rupert when the elder Murdoch, 80, retires. James rejoined News Corp. board in 2007.

It appears now that James, indeed, is the frontrunner for dad's chair.

Here's the full release:

News Corporation Names James Murdoch Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Chairman and CEO, International

New York, NY, March 30, 2011 – News Corporation has appointed James Murdoch Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Chairman and CEO, International. In this newly-created role, Mr. Murdoch will bring his significant operational expertise to bear across News Corporation’s broad asset portfolio, collaborating with senior leaders to develop and execute strategies and plans that strengthen and further evolve businesses, extend brands, and build new franchises. He will maintain direct responsibility for the Company’s operations in Europe and Asia. Mr. Murdoch will relocate to New York, continue to report to News Corporation Deputy Chairman, President and Chief Operating Officer, Chase Carey and work closely with Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of News Corporation.

“James has demonstrated in an array of roles that he is a shrewd and decisive operator who can deftly navigate complex issues to transform businesses. He has equally shown a unique understanding of the emerging technologies and the digital forces that are reshaping our industry,” commented Mr. Carey. “As we become increasingly global and consumer focused, we believe there are real opportunities to add new dimensions to our core businesses. We are confident that James’ deep knowledge of international markets, his proven leadership, and his passionate focus on building consumer relationships make him the ideal person to help us realize these opportunities across all our companies.”

“Around the world, the Company’s operations are increasingly fit and focused on priorities that can over time produce very significant returns,” said Mr. James Murdoch. “I feel extremely fortunate to continue to support News Corporation’s international growth and also be given the chance to contribute to important initiatives across the Company. Most of all, I am delighted to work even more closely with Chase Carey, whose extraordinary leadership is felt in every part of the business.”

Mr. Murdoch has spent the past 15 years in senior roles at News Corporation successfully building businesses in a number of regions, and developing a reputation for discovering underserved markets, maximizing new technologies and delivering results.

He has been Chairman and Chief Executive, Europe and Asia for News Corporation as well as Executive Chairman, News International, since 2007. In these roles, he has been responsible for the strategic and operational development of the Company’s television, newspaper and related digital assets in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. During his tenure, he oversaw a successful reorganization of the STAR Group; expanded the Company’s television businesses in India, Turkey, Germany and the Middle East; strengthened the performance of the Sky-branded pay-TV platforms and championed the development of a pay model for digital journalism.

From 2003 to 2007, he served as BSkyB’s Chief Executive Officer, where he transformed the company — implementing long-term growth strategies, improving content offerings and embracing broadband and telephony — doubling the size of the company and revitalizing the brand.

Earlier, Mr. Murdoch headed News Corporation’s Asian television group STAR, which was a money-losing operation when he became Chairman and CEO in 2000. Mr. Murdoch’s strategic focus on developing the pay-tv market in India led to a resurgence for the group, which delivered approximately $100 million in operating profit last year. Today, the Company’s Indian channels are the most watched in the country and India has become one of the fastest growing territories for the Company.

Mr. Murdoch first joined News Corporation in 1996 as an Executive Vice President based in New York responsible for a number of digital media ventures and corporate development projects.

He is currently Non-Executive Chairman of BSkyB. He rejoined the Board of News Corporation in 2007, and is a Non-Executive Director of GlaxoSmithKline and Sotheby’s.