July 27, 2021

With News Corp. in Crisis, a Non-Murdoch Takes a Larger Role

Mr. Murdoch was skeptical, saying he would rather focus on getting through the crisis than on the stock price, according to people familiar with Mr. Murdoch’s thinking who would not publicly discuss private conversations.

Mr. Carey persisted. As of this month, News Corporation had repurchased $2.5 billion of Class A shares and had largely kept investors happy, despite the continuing scandal in Britain. In the first week of trading in 2012, News Corporation shares rose to a 52-week record, or 30 percent above the lows it hit in the weeks after public outcry over the hacking scandal began in July and higher than it had been before.

The crisis in London has left Mr. Murdoch stretched thin and increasingly reliant on his No. 2, Mr. Carey, 58, who was once considered to be serving as a placeholder until one of the Murdoch children took over. Never in the $60 billion media company’s history has an executive other than Mr. Murdoch taken such a major role in running the daily operations.

“Chase is one of those people with no fear,” said Michael Ovitz, co-founder of the Creative Artists Agency. “He’ll say, ‘This is what’s good for you. And this is what’s bad for you.’ That’s hard to do when you’re dealing with a founder and patriarch.”

Mr. Carey, who wears blazers with elbow patches and a Wyatt Earp-style handlebar mustache, leads earnings calls, speaks at investor conferences and strategizes on everything, including retransmission fees with cable and satellite companies. Unlike Mr. Murdoch and his son James, who continue to face scrutiny related to phone hacking and the accusation that nepotism sometimes overrides shareholder interests, Mr. Carey’s outsider status makes him a steady and less polarizing figure, analysts said.

“He’s increasingly becoming the face of the company,” said Richard Greenfield, a media analyst at BTIG.

In August, Mr. Murdoch, 80, told analysts that Mr. Carey would take over as chief executive in an emergency. “Chase is my partner, and if anything happened to me, I’m sure he’ll get it immediately,” he said.

The question of succession at News Corporation is a delicate one. Most senior executives declined to comment on the record about Mr. Carey, expressing concern that any positive observations might appear as a slight to James Murdoch. Mr. Carey declined to comment.

Interviews with more than a dozen current and former associates reveal that Mr. Carey is in many ways Mr. Murdoch’s alter ego. He is aloof while Mr. Murdoch is engaged with the public (most recently on Twitter, where Mr. Murdoch has criticized opponents of antipiracy legislation); he is all-American while Mr. Murdoch is worldly (Mr. Carey once dragged a colleague to a sports bar while on business in Hong Kong); and he is apolitical while Mr. Murdoch is conservative.

“Every visionary has 40 bad ideas and three good ones, and you need those checks and balances,” said Greg Nathanson, the former president of the Fox Television Stations. “Murdoch’s visions were amazing, but he couldn’t execute them without a person like Chase.”

Mr. Carey, a New York native, college rugby player and die-hard Yankees and Giants fan, first joined News Corporation in 1988 after working in the home entertainment and finance divisions of Columbia Pictures. His mustache hides a scar from an injury from a car accident on the way to a football game at Colgate University, where he was active in the Delta Upsilon fraternity. The driver died, and Mr. Carey went through the windshield.

As the fledgling Fox network’s chief operating officer, Mr. Carey quickly became Mr. Murdoch’s preferred negotiator.

In 1993, Mr. Murdoch bet Mr. Carey $20 that the network known for “The Simpsons” and “Beverly Hills, 90210” could not capture the National Football League’s primary television rights from venerable CBS. The league had twice rejected Fox’s offers, and CBS had been known for football for 38 years.

Mr. Carey put together a $1.56 billion deal that beat out CBS and put Fox on the map. Mr. Murdoch paid up on his $20 bet.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=99411a943a48ab7b17c07edb1866d2aa

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