Rupert Murdoch acknowledged for the first time publicly that his son James is not the preferred choice to succeed him as News Corp chief executive, at least in the near-term.
In the clearest indication yet that the phone hacking scandal enveloping News Corp’s UK operations has damaged the succession ambitions of James Murdoch, his father endorsed top lieutenant Chase Carey for the job.
“Chase is my partner and if anything happened to me I’m sure he’ll get it immediately – if I went under a bus,” the elder Murdoch said.
Although News Corp has often said that it has a succession plan in place, the company has never explicitly stated who would ascend to the CEO role should Murdoch step down.
In testimony before Parliament last month, Murdoch reiterated his long-held desire to see one of his children succeed him. Until recently, his youngest son James, 38, had been viewed as the likely successor after he was promoted to deputy chief operating officer in March.
The younger Murdoch has been under pressure since the phone hacking scandal, which erupted last month at News Corp’s UK operations, forced the closure of its News of the World tabloid and the arrest of 12 ex-staffers. News Corp’s UK business ultimately reported to the younger Murdoch.
James Murdoch has to submit a written statement to a parliamentary committee by Thursday responding to accusations that he misrepresented statements in prior testimony.
But James Murdoch hasn’t been completely exiled, however. Murdoch, 80, added that he and Carey had “full confidence” in James, leaving the door open for him to possibly become CEO in the future.
In the meantime, the elder Murdoch has no immediate plan to step aside despite the phone hacking scandal raising questions about his leadership. “I hope the job won’t be open in the near future,” Murdoch joked. He added that he has the full support of News Corp’s board.
Murdoch’s comments came during a quarterly earnings call in which he was more lucid about the company’s operations and more combative towards inquisitors than he was last month before Parliament.