Murdoch moves to fill Fox vacancy

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The Independent Online

Rupert Murdoch has filled the void at the head of News Corporation's US television business - a role which used to be held by his son Lachlan - with one of his most senior lieutenants who has been head of the highly successful Fox News Channel.

Roger Ailes is a TV veteran who oversaw the growth of Fox News into America's biggest cable news channel, overtaking its rival CNN. He will also be chairman of Fox Television Stations, one of the largest TV networks in the US with 35 stations and a production studio, Twentieth Television.

The move comes after Lachlan quit unexpectedly last month. Several sources close to the Murdochs have said that Lachlan left after mounting tensions with his father, which included frustrations that he was being left out of meetings about the television business and other matters.

Mr Ailes, 65, will report directly to Mr Murdoch. He is thought to be close to the 74-year-old media mogul and to Peter Chernin, News Corporation's president and the most powerful person in the international media conglomerate outside the Murdoch family.

In an interview with The New York Times, Mr Ailes attempted to play down the impression that his close professional relationship with Mr Murdoch was a factor in Lachlan's departure.

He said the first time Mr Murdoch had discussed the possibility of handing over the TV assets to Mr Ailes to manage was over lunch in News Corporation's Manhattan headquarters on Monday.

Mr Ailes added that he jumped at the chance, saying: "What appeals to me is News Corp itself. This is the greatest media company in the history of the country, probably."

While Mr Murdoch has made much of his interest in increasing News Corporation's internet presence in the past few months, its television business is a major part of the business.

Fox Television Stations had operating income of more than $900m (£497m) in the 12 months to 30 June, about one quarter of the company's total earnings. It will continue to be headed on a day-to-day basis by Jack Abernethy, who worked closely with Mr Ailes at the CNBC financial news channel and later at Fox News.

As deputy chief operating officer, Lachlan Murdoch was also publisher of the New York Post and oversaw the company's Australian newspapers.

Rupert Murdoch said he would assume the role of publisher of the Post, a position he held from 1976, when News Corporation bought the newspaper, until 1986.

The abrupt and unexplained departure of 33-year-old Lachlan dashed Mr Murdoch's hopes that his son would one day take over as chief executive of the global media empire, which includes The Times and The Sun in the UK, the Twentieth Century Fox film studio, and several satellite broadcasters including DirecTV.