Rupert Murdoch hasn’t wasted any time putting his stamp on Dow Jones with two loyal Australian expats moving from London to New York to take charge of the operation after next Thursday’s shareholder vote.

Les Hinton, who has run News International since 1995, will replace Richard Zannino as chief executive and Robert Thomson, who started out on The Herald in Melbourne, will shift from editor of The Times in London to publisher of The Wall Street Journal.

The WSJ.com website broke the story this morning, including detail on what is looking like an extensive management clean out:

Among the executives expected to follow Mr Zannino out the door are the Journal’s publisher, Gordon Crovitz, Dow Jones Chief Financial Officer Bill Plummer, General Counsel Joseph Stern and the company’s corporate communications chief, Linda Dunbar. Mr Crovitz is expected to write a column for the Journal’s editorial page.

In what is Rupert’s first big newspaper takeover since the 1987 battle for the Herald & Weekly Times, the Sun King has seemingly learnt a few lessons.

The HWT CEO John D’Arcy was not only retained, but then elevated to the News Corp board, before later getting sacked and then self-publishing a damning book about Rupert two years ago. Zannino didn’t get on the News Corp board because Rupert selected 27 year old opera singer Natalie Bancroft to represent the family.

Whilst Rupert’s sister, Janet Calvert Jones, was installed as HWT chairman, this time he has resisted the temptation to install a relative despite speculation the Dow Jones purchase would be used to lure son and passionate newspaper man Lachlan Murdoch back into the executive ranks.

Lachlan fell out with the scheming film and television executives such as Fox News supremo Roger Ailes and Rupert’s deputy of ten years, Peter Chernin. However, neither has much interest in newspapers so it is expected to be Hinton and Rupert himself who make the big operational decision on the Dow Jones business.

One interesting parallel with the HWT and Dow Jones takeovers is the way the management insiders have outrageously enriched themselves.

In the case of the HWT it was through the issuance of millions of partly paid shares which created instant fortunes after the takeover and with Dow Jones it was a raft of golden parachutes that the key executives wrote for themselves after Rupert’s bid first landed.

News Corp shareholders have suffered a falling share price since the Dow Jones bid was launched and should be outraged that Zannino is walking out with even more than his original $US19 million payout promise. This is the price you pay for board and management endorsement and voluntary sackings.

Today’s Mayne Report video names and shames companies “doing a Gunns” by treating small shareholders with contempt.

Meanwhile, Glenn Dyer writes:

Is the News Corp reshuffle, long rumoured for Australia, Britain and Europe, about to happen?

London reports say James Murdoch is about to step-down as CEO of BSkyB, which is 38% owned by Newscorp. He will switch to running all of Newscorp’s European business, meaning he would oversee BSkyB, Sky Italia, the London newspapers and the growing cable businesses in places like Poland.

He would also oversee Asia, which includes his old alma mater, Star TV, which is pushing more heavily into India after curtailing its plans for China. The reports say James will rejoin the News Corp board and is clearly being groomed for the succession.

And there have been suggestions there could be changes in other operations. A favourite to takeover BSkyB is Tom Mockeridge who has turned Sky Italia into the fastest growing business in News Corp.

There has also been speculation that Kim Williams might leave Foxtel for Sky Italia after having completed the digitisation of the Pay TV business and brought it to profits. He speaks Italian but News sources say he’s unwilling to shift.

There’s also speculation that John Hartigan, News Ltd’s chairman and CEO in Australia might be bound for a new role, though the same story was around in January.

Peter Fray

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