(Reuters) – Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp said it had promoted Peter Rice to chairman and chief executive of its Fox Networks Group in the first step of an expected executive shake-up ahead of the company’s split into two separate entertainment and news companies next year.
It also announced on Monday that long-time Fox Sports CEO David Hill has been moved to a wider role of senior executive vice president for News Corp focusing on programming and digital initiatives globally.
The double move means Rice will now also oversee sports, one of the most lucrative sectors of the TV business, in addition to Fox Broadcasting, international and cable networks. He will oversee all of News Corp’s TV business outside of Fox News which is overseen by Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes.
Rice is seen within the business as one of Murdoch’s favorite executives. The British-born Rice was previously chairman of entertainment for Fox. Before that he was president of the studio Fox Searchlight where he had huge success with “Slumdog Millionaire”, “The Wrestler” and “Juno”.
Fox Network senior executives David Haslingden and Mike Hopkins, who previously reported to Murdoch’s No. 2, Chase Carey, will now report to Rice.
Fox Sports co-presidents Randy Freer and Eric Shanks, who previously reported to Hill, will also now report to Rice.
There has been much speculation about how News Corp will cram all its executive talent into the new News Corp entertainment company after the split from its newspapers and publishing business. Alongside Murdoch as chairman and CEO, and Carey, there are also Murdoch’s two children Elisabeth and James, who are both entertainment executives.
Rupert Murdoch decided to relent to pressure from investors and some advisors to split off the company’s newspapers and publishing from its entertainment arm in a bid to boost valuation of the entertainment assets which were being discounted because of their association with the struggling newspaper business.
The split which is planned to be completed in 2013.
Earlier on Monday, News Corp unveiled the brand for its education business as Amplify, headed by former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. After the company splits in two Amplify will sit within News Corp’s newspaper and publishing company.
(Reporting By Yinka Adegoke- Editing by Tim Dobbyn)