NewsCorp Locks Up Chernin for Five Years

02 August 2004

It is no accident that Rupert Murdoch chose to consolidate his legion TV and movie assets under the corporate brand, 'Fox'. Its vulpine associations have a special resonance with the 73-year old chairman of News Corporation.

Foxiness is evident in Murdoch's latest move, the contractual binding of his key lieutenant, NewsCorp president/chief operating officer Peter Chernin, to the group for five whole years from June 30 -- a term way out of kilter with today's corporate governance thinking.

For some time the canny media tycoon has been uneasily aware that a clique of dissident Disney shareholders is casting enticing looks in Chernin's direction, eyeing him as a potential replacement for ceo Michael Eisner. Equally aware is Chernin, who at 52 still has at least one big career move ahead of him.

He is said to be the very antithesis of Murdoch, a former book editor who worked his way up Hollywood's greasy pole as a TV producer to become head of Fox Broadcasting. In 1996 Chernin was appointed to his present position on the main board of NewsCorp.

His quiet finesse and resolve helped propel the group's properties to double-digit revenue increases and earnings in 2003. And like Murdoch he is no short-termist.

One hundred per cent focused on the longer-term bottom line, not least his own, Chernin received compensation, including bonus, of $17.3 million (€14.38m; £9.51m) in the fiscal just ended.

Many NewsCorp watchers believe he will take control of the group should Murdoch become incapacitated before handing the tiller to one or both of his sons, Lachlan (32) and James (31).

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff