- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Rupert Murdoch, the billionaire chief executive of News Corp., shuffled leadership of the company’s Fox operations in Los Angeles as the media company prepares for the departure of President Peter Chernin.

Peter Rice, president of boutique movie label Fox Searchlight, which distributed Oscar-winners “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Juno,” was promoted to chairman of entertainment, Fox Broadcasting.

The network’s entertainment division buys and broadcasts such long-standing Fox shows as “American Idol,” “24,” “The Simpsons,” “King of the Hill” and “Family Guy.”

Peter Liguori, whose contract was to expire this summer, is stepping down from the post immediately, the company said.

“As we increasingly look to apply unconventional approaches to our traditional businesses, I’m convinced Peter Rice is the right person to transform our broadcast television business,” said Murdoch, who turned 78 on Wednesday, in a statement Thursday.

Rice will report to Tony Vinciquerra, chairman and CEO of the Fox Networks Group, who expanded his role from monitoring the business side of the network to also handling programming.

Meanwhile, all of the movie and TV production departments are now grouped under Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman, co-chairmen of Fox Filmed Entertainment, who will report directly to Murdoch.

Peter Levinsohn, president of Fox Interactive Media, which houses MySpace, will continue to report directly to Murdoch, as will Roger Ailes, chairman and CEO of FOX News Channel and Fox Business Network and chairman of the Fox Television Stations and Twentieth Television.

Last month, Chernin, 57, announced he would step down from his role as News president when his contract expires June 30 and launch a Fox-based production company that requires Fox to purchase at least two movies a year.

Chernin’s departure is seen by some as clearing the eventual path to succession for Murdoch’s son James, the 36-year-old executive in charge of News Corp.’s businesses in Europe and Asia.

News Corp. shares rose 19 cents, or 3 percent, to close earlier at $6.55.

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