The Murdochs who run 21st Century Fox (FOXA) still have one more major hire to make at Fox News Channel, and that hiring could tell us whether CEO James Murdoch has gained any power at the expense of his father, Rupert, the company's executive chairman.
Fox News co-president Bill Shine resigned on Monday, shortly after star anchor Bill O'Reilly's dismissal following multiple allegations of sexual harassment-tied payments to women going back more than 10 years to keep such charges quiet. Shine, who has been cited in at least two sexual harassment lawsuits against Fox News, was widely viewed as a holdover who had to go.
But amid the flurry of executive changes announced on Monday, one job remained unfilled: Shine's position of co-president.
Shine shared that title with Jack Abernethy, who oversees the business side of Fox News and remains at the network. The two men, Roger Ailes loyalists, were promoted in August as a sign to O'Reilly and others that the network wouldn't drift away from its roots. Sean Hannity, another Ailes stalwart, declared last week that Fox News would be irreparably damaged if Shine were forced to resign.
Ailes, of course, was dismissed in July after former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson's sexual harassment lawsuit moved other women working at the network, including star anchor Megyn Kelly, to come forward with similar accounts of boorish behavior followed by employer retaliation. Kelly left Fox News in January for Comcast's (CMCSA) NBC News.
Technically, Fox News doesn't have a CEO following Ailes' dismissal. Rupert Murdoch held the title of acting CEO until Shine and Abernethy were promoted. Murdoch dropped the acting CEO moniker while retaining the position of the network's executive chairman. At some point, though, Shine's position will be filled, sources close to the matter said.
Who is chosen, and whether that person comes from within Fox News or from the outside, likely will indicate who's in charge: the elder Murdoch, his son James or, to a lesser extent, James' brother, Lachlan, who shares the title of Fox's executive chairman with his father.