Rupert Murdoch on Thursday set in motion the biggest management shake-up at News Corp in years, giving his son, James, control over the media group's European and Asian operations and dispatching two trusted executives to lead Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal.
As part of the reshuffle, James Murdoch will step down as chief executive of British Sky Broadcasting, and replace his father as non-executive chairman of the UK satellite broadcaster, while Jeremy Darroch will be promoted from BSkyB's chief financial officer to chief executive.
The younger Mr Murdoch, 34, will oversee international operations that stretch from Star TV, the Asian satellite operation he ran before moving to London in 2003, to Sky Italia and a growing broadcasting business in eastern Europe. The move, which could herald a new focus on international expansion at News Corp, will see Mr Murdoch rejoin the News Corp board.
The younger Mr Murdoch's elevation comes as Les Hinton, chairman of News International, the News Corp-owned publisher of The Sun and The Sunday Times, the UK newspapers, is planning to move to New York to become chief executive of Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal.
Richard Zannino, Dow Jones' current chief executive, said he was stepping down on Thursday, a week before News Corp is due to complete its $5bn takeover of the group.
Mr Zannino, who was instrumental in Dow Jones' sale, said he was leaving because, having been chief executive of a public company, he did not want to become a division head. In a statement, Mr Murdoch thanked him and praised his leadership.
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Robert Thomson, editor of The Times, will become the Journal's new publisher, replacing Gordon Crovitz, whose future with the company is unclear. Mr Thomson is succeeded as editor of The Times by James Harding, currently the newspaper's business and City editor.
Rupert Murdoch said his son was a proven executive with hands-on operational experience of running Star TV in Asia and BSkyB in the UK and added: "This is the right time to align our operations in Europe and Asia under new, structured group leadership."
James Murdoch's appointment in 2003 as chief executive of BSkyB, which his father founded 18 years ago and in which News Corp holds a 39.1 per cent stake, prompted claims of nepotism. He initially struggled with a weak share price, but investors have begun to warm to the company in the past year, in which BSkyB's shares have at last outperformed the market.
"The team at Sky has demonstrated the success that can be achieved with an appetite for change and a single-minded focus on customers," James Murdoch said in a statement released by BSkyB on Friday.
Mr Darroch, a former finance director at Dixons (now DSG International), said he looked forward to the new challenge: "Few companies of Sky's scale have its capacity for moving quickly, seizing opportunities and thriving on a culture of change," he said.
The company's success, coupled with James Murdoch's competitive style, has contributed to a sense among analysts that James was ultimately more likely to succeed his father at News Corp than Lachlan, his older brother.
BSkyB shares, which have risen 13 per cent in the last year and outperformed the media index, dipped 2.4 per cent in early London dealings on Friday but recovered most of those losses to stand 2½p lower at 602p in late trading.