Murdoch's Media Shake Up: Are You Listening Sumner Redstone?

Rupert Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch's media empire is shaking up the management structure, and putting son James Murdoch in a bigger job that sets him up to succeed his dad.

Here's the news: 34-year old James Murdoch was appointed head of Europe and Asia, and replacing his dad as chairman of BSkyB, where until now he was CEO. So, yeah, James is really young, but his experience sets him up for this job quite well.

He turned around Asia's Star Television and in 2003 become a director at British Sky Broadcasting, turning it around as well. He grew revenue by 40 percent and broadened the company from pure play satellite TV to offer a triple play including broadband and phone service.

He quickly proved that he wasn't just there because of nepotism. He's also considered a really forward thinker--he's very green, making BSkyB an environmental leader in that it's entirely carbon neutral.

He's also credited for turning Rupert onto the value of Internet companies when he urged him to buy a web company back in 1997. (He didn't end up buying it, but the fact that News Corp is so web-savvy and owns MySpace says something).

What about Rupert's oldest son, Lachlan? I talked to him at the Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley this summer and he seemed perfectly happy to be doing the entrepreneurial thing (he runs an Internet company out of Australia.)

My colleague Dennis Kneale insists that Lachlan is still the prodigal son, and that he'll come home to rule the company some day. I have to disagree: it's not that Lachlan won't come back into the fold-- he told me he was open to it--but between the fact that Lachlan hasn't been involved in News Corp in the past two and a half years and this recent reorg, I think that the spotlight has surely shifted to James.

And I also think that this is a good thing for News Corp overall, family politics aside. Europe and Asia are growing very fast, and with one guy in charge, these crucial business areas are likely to get some real strategic guidance, instead of just being grouped in with everything else. And clearly with BSkyB, SkyItalia and Star Television, there's some serious crossover in the satellite business.

I can't praise the fact that 76-year-old Murdoch is getting a tentative succession plan together without thinking about how ridiculous it is that Sumner Redstone who's 84 has nothing that even vaguely looks like one. (And no, I don't think the fact that the CEO of Viacom, Philippe Dauman also happens to be Redstone's personal lawyer) does the job. Sumner, now that you've sort of reconciled with your daughter Shari- what's your plan?

Questions? Comments?