The executive who oversaw the business operations of the profit engine behind Rupert Murdoch’s global media empire is stepping down, triggering a reorganization of News Corp.'s Fox television unit.
Tony Vinciquerra, a low-key executive who joined Fox a decade ago and ran the company’s entertainment and sports networks, will leave Feb. 11 — two years before his contract expires. The point person for the business side of the TV group, Vinciquerra was responsible for Fox’s recent negotiations with hard-nosed cable and satellite TV operators to win higher payments for the carriage of Fox networks, haggling with “American Idol” judges over new contracts, and navigating the downturn in TV advertising during the recession.
Vinciquerra’s departure consolidates the power of News Corp. President and Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey by eliminating a layer of management and placing several key TV executives directly under his control. Fox’s television group includes the Fox network, the FX and National Geographic cable channels and Fox’s regional sports networks.
Most significant, Peter Rice, entertainment chief for the Fox network, FX and Fox Movie Channel, will now report to Carey, along with David Haslingden, head of the fast-growing Fox International Channels. As president of Fox Networks Group, Haslingden will take over many of Vinciquerra’s responsibilities, including finance, legal affairs and advertising sales.
Also reporting to Carey will be Fox Sports Chairman David Hill, who picked up a new duty — monitoring Fox’s interest in the National Geographic Channels, a joint venture with the National Geographic Society. Two sports executives, Randy Freer and Eric Shanks, will become co-presidents of the Fox Sports Media Group, reporting to Hill. Succeeding Haslingden as head of the Fox International Channels is Hernan Lopez, who was in charge of Latin American and British channels.
“Over the past decade, Tony has made many significant contributions to our organization, chief among them helping to build our cable portfolio into one of News Corp.'s biggest growth drivers,” Carey said in an e-mail to employees. The cable television group now contributes more than half of the entire company’s profit. In 2010, operating income for the group increased 37% to $2.3 billion.
Despite his success at Fox, Vinciquerra, 55, was an unlikely executive to rise within Murdoch’s News Corp. He was never part of Murdoch’s clubby inner circle nor did he fit in with the freewheeling spirit of Murdoch’s longtime lieutenants. Instead, the New York native — who as a teenager scooped ice cream and swept up hair in his grandfather’s barbershop to help support his family — rose through the ranks of the TV industry by selling ads and managing stations.
But in 2009, Vinciquerra lost authority when Carey, a longtime Murdoch deputy, returned to News Corp. Carey had spent his earlier News Corp. career on the business side of Fox’s television operations. Vinciquerra possessed the “same skill set” as Carey, according to a person familiar with the situation, and thus wasn’t as crucial to the organization.
With Carey on the scene, Vinciquerra didn’t find his job as challenging. Last summer, he told his bosses that he would like to leave before his contract expired. At the time, Fox was preparing for key negotiations with two cable and satellite operators over long-term carriage agreements. After those deals were sewn up in November — securing huge fee increases for Fox — Carey began making plans to streamline the ranks and promote other executives.
“I’ve been doing this job for 10 years, and it’s time to think about other things,” Vinciquerra said in an interview. “We have some good people who have really grown in their jobs; they have become more focused and are ready to step up to the challenge.”
Vinciquerra said he didn’t have another job lined up but was interested in communications technology. He also serves on the board of Motorola Inc.