With the ouster of Roger Ailes and now Bill O’Reilly, Rupert Murdoch’s son has overthrown his own network as he moves to reinvent the family company’s profit machine at great risk.
After The New York Times wrote about the sexual harassment claims leveled at Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly and the settlements made by the company and O’Reilly himself, James Murdoch, according to 21st Century Fox sources, kept repeating with horror to his friends and executives: “This is on the front page of The New York Times!”
These sources say James Murdoch’s longtime annoyance if not disgust with Fox News became cold fury after the Times‘ April 1 story — even though several of the O’Reilly settlements had happened when James was CEO of the parent company. This was a similar reaction to what had followed the harassment suit by former anchor Gretchen Carlson against Fox News chief Roger Ailes in July. Every time Fox controversies spilled over into the wider world, James took it personally. “It was somehow against him,” says one person close to the Murdochs.
Fox News is a business he should not be in, he had told people before, despite its major contribution to 21st Century Fox’s bottom line — 20 percent of its profits came from Fox News last year, the biggest-earning division in the company. Presumably, he meant the in-your-face world of conservative cable news with its mega personalities. Indeed, James regarded many of the people at Fox News as thuggish Neanderthals and said he was embarrassed to be in the same company with them.
But, likewise, it would be hard to imagine how James could have been regarded with more contempt by many of the people at Fox News. James was rather exhibit No. 1 of the liberal elite entitlement that Fox had so profitably programmed against. “Fox [News] is an important brand, but it needs to develop, and, to some extent, be reformed,” James said when I interviewed him 10 years ago in his office as the chief executive of the Murdoch-controlled Sky TV in Britain, whose significantly less-partisan news operation he extolled as a ratings and journalistic model.
SOURCE: Michael Wolff
The Hollywood Reporter