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Peter Chernin to Leave News Corp.

23 Feb, 2009 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Peter Chernin

Peter Chernin, president and COO of News Corp. is leaving the media giant, ending a 12-year career as second-in-command that saw the highly influential executive spearhead 20th Century Fox Studios, including Fox Home Entertainment, and Fox television operations to generate the bulk of News Corp.’s operating profits.

"I wanted to let you know that I have decided to leave News Corp. when my contract expires on June 30th,” Chernin said in a statement. "This is not a decision that came easily, but after more than 12 years in my current job, 20 years at News Corp., and 30 years of corporate life, I am ready for new entrepreneurial challenges."

No successor has been named.

News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch issued a statement saying Chernin would be taking the opportunity to start a new motion picture and television production venture with Fox. He said a streamlined management structure between "our Los Angeles based business units and the rest of the company" would be implemented over the next several months. 

"For the time being, of course, the executive team at the Fox Group will continue to report to Peter," Murdoch said.

Chernin, whose contract expires in June, reportedly ironed out his departure over the weekend, according to the Los Angeles Times. The 57-year-old executive’s severance package includes lucrative publishing and movie production deals.

Chernin’s possible departure has been the subject of much scuttlebutt and comes at a time when News Corp.’s stock is down nearly 70% from its 52-week high. He, along with Disney CEO Bob Iger, has been instrumental in the ongoing labor talks with the Screen Actors Guild.

The filmed-entertainment reported operating income of $112 million in the most recent quarter, down nearly 73% from $403 million during the prior-year period. Revenue fell 25%, to nearly $1.5 billion, from $1.9 billion during the previous year.

Wall Street continues to be highly critical of Murdoch’s expensive purchase of Dow Jones & Co., owner of the Wall Street Journal. The entire newspaper industry is in a freefall due to plummeting print advertising revenues.

In January, Pali Capital analyst Richard Greenfield said Chernin’s departure would raise “significant investor concern” and could lead to other management changes.

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