Rupert Murdoch’s latest executive chess moves reveal a timely and strategic game at hand, as he replaces News Ltd stalwart John Hartigan with current Foxtel CEO Kim Williams.
Williams, a loyal Murdoch ally, will take Hartigan’s CEO role, with Murdoch to re-assume the chairman's role in Australia.
The move comes amid a week where relations between the government and News Ltd have further soured with the abrupt cancellation of the tender for the Australia Network contract, and the launch of a public inquiry into Australian media.
Significantly, the vacant CEO role at Foxtel will be filled by Richard Freudenstein, current CEO of News Digital Media and CEO of The Australian.
The appointment is a return to old ground for Freudenstein, who was part of the legal team that launched Foxtel 17 years ago.
In the interim he served as COO at BSkyB before joining News Digital Media five years ago as a digital transformer of the newspaper operations He launched The Australian’s iPad and Android tablet apps and last month launched The Australian’s premium digital subscription Service.
One of Freudenstein’s first Foxtel duties will be to navigate it through the pending $AU1.9 billion Austar take-over and lead the subscription TV operator into an IPTV future.
Although Williams has no background in print publishing, his cross platform content prowess will be put to the test in accelerating News Ltd’s push into digital and new revenue streams.
His leadership style also presents a distinct cultural change to the Hartigan-inspired boys' club for which News is famous. ®