The top cable network is seeing some massive changes. What does this mean going forward and will talent walk?
Rupert Murdoch has emerged from the News Corporation building in New York hours after Roger Ailes stepped down from Fox News.
Mr Murdoch, 85, has personally stepped into the breach and taken over as Chairman and Acting CEO.
The media mogul, who was on vacation in the French Riviera with his wife Jerry Hall, flew back to New York a week early to deal with the Ailes talks, according to CNN’s Brian Stelter.
Both Mr Murdoch and his sons addressed the Fox newsroom about the change, according to Matt Drudge, who broke the news of Ailes’ departure.
Mr Ailes, 76, today said he was stepping down because he did not want his ‘presence to become a distraction’. His position had effectively become untenable after former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against him earlier this month.
Mr Murdoch, who is Executive Chairman of 21st Century Fox, said in a statement: ‘Roger Ailes has made a remarkable contribution to our company and our country. Roger shared my vision of a great and independent television organization and executed it brilliantly over 20 great years.
‘Fox News has given voice to those who were ignored by the traditional networks and has been one of the great commercial success stories of modern media.
‘It is always difficult to create a channel or a publication from the ground up and against seemingly entrenched monopolies. To lead a flourishing news channel, and to build Fox Business, Roger has defied the odds.
‘His grasp of policy and his ability to make profoundly important issues accessible to a broader audience stand in stark contrast to the self-serving elitism that characterizes far too much of the media.
‘I am personally committed to ensuring that Fox News remains a distinctive, powerful voice. Our nation needs a robust Fox News to resonate from every corner of the country.
‘To ensure continuity of all that is best about Fox News and what it stands for, I will take over as Chairman and acting CEO, with the support of our existing management team under Bill Shine, Jay Wallace and Mark Kranz.’
Lachlan and James Murdoch, sons of Rupert, who are 21st Century Fox’s Executive Chairman, and CEO, respectively, added: ‘We join our father in recognizing Roger’s remarkable contributions to our company.
‘Our talented Fox News and Fox Business colleagues, up and down the organization and on both sides of the camera, have built something that continues to redefine the cable news experience for millions of viewers.
‘We are enormously proud of their accomplishments. For them, as well as for our colleagues across our entire organization, we continue our commitment to maintaining a work environment based on trust and respect. We take seriously our responsibility to uphold these traditional, long-standing values of our company.’
The Murdoch boys, who are not exactly fans of Mr Ailes, appear to be behind the decision to hire a law firm to conduct an outside investigation into the sexual harassment claims. It appears somewhat surprising however that Mr Murdoch has stepped in to act as chief executive himself, rather than trust one of his two sons to operate in the role temporarily.
Mr Ailes, released an open letter to Mr Murdoch, via Drudge Report, saying he was proud of his 20 years at the company, but he was unwilling to become a ‘distraction’. He did not specifically mention the harassment lawsuit although he said he took ‘particular pride in the role that I have played advancing the careers of the many women I have promoted to executive and on-air positions’.
He will reportedly receive about $40 million as part of a settlement agreement, a source told the New York Times.
He will continue act as an informal adviser to Mr Murdoch on an interim basis, although earlier reports he would remain on board as a consultant appeared wrong. He has also reportedly agreed to a non-compete clause, meaning he won’t run any other news organizations.
Brit Hume, the veteran Fox News anchor, told the New York Times he was ‘absolutely heartbroken’ at the news Mr Ailes had stepped down.
‘I love the guy, and I’m heartbroken,’ he said. ‘When I said I love the guy, that’s present tense.’
Anchor Chris Wallace, speaking at the Republican Convention in Cleveland said there were ‘people in tears’ at the news.