James Murdoch, the younger son of News Corp. boss Rupert Murdoch, will move to New York this year to become the chief operating officer of his father's media conglomerate. Already serving as CEO and chairman of News Corp. International, this further pushes the 38-year-old out ahead of his siblings as the most likely successor to 80-year-old Rupert's empire. Though sister Elisabeth was recently brought back into the fold, she is busy with her television networks and only recently started sitting in at board meetings again. And eldest brother Lachlan, who also sits on the board from his home in Australia, has no managerial role at the company at the moment.
Murdoch will report to the company's deputy chairman, Chase Carey, but the real figure he'll have to contend with at 1211 Sixth Avenue is Fox News and Fox Business Network titan Roger Ailes. Ailes, notoriously, had a hand in Lachlan's decision to leave News Corp. in 2004, and in a 2010 New York Times article was targeted by Matthew Freud, Elisabeth Murdoch's PR maven husband. "I am by no means alone within the family or the company in being ashamed and sickened by Roger Ailes’s horrendous and sustained disregard of the journalistic standards that News Corporation, its founder and every other global media business aspires to," he said at the time, in a statement that has been guessed by some insiders to have been approved by others in the Murdoch family (though Ailes later said both James and Elisabeth called him after the statement to make amends).
By moving to New York, James will have to confront the Ailes issue head on, rather than avoiding it by lingering in Europe and Asia. In his February 2010 story for New York, Gabriel Sherman explained some of the potential personal problems that would arise with having them in the same place:
Roger Ailes is another complication for James. In Europe, where James spends much of his time, Ailes and Fox News are mocked and loathed as the worst form of American jingoism. James is concerned about climate change, and his wife, Kathryn, a former model and marketing executive, works for the Clinton Foundation. Politically, James is not liberal—he’s a committed free-market thinker—but Fox’s brand of politics is a problem that, in his view, needs to be managed.
The appointment of James Murdoch to a higher role, of course, has business as well as personal aspects. According to the Times, News Corp. is battling political obstacles blocking them from a complete takeover of British Sky Broadcasting. The younger Murdoch has overseen the growth of the company's television assets in Asia, so his expertise in this field will be put to good use. He also has extensive digital experience — although that has included some infamous mistakes — which will shore up his father's notorious discomfort with the terrain. James has an ally on that front in New York, too — he is close friends and former Harvard roommates with Daily editor Jesse Angelo.
James Murdoch Is Appointed Deputy C.O.O. of News Corp. [DealBook/NYT]
Related: Rupert Murdoch: The Raging Septuagenarian [NYM]