New News Corp’s new CEO

New News Corp’s (ASX: NNC) CEO Kim Williams, who had been with the company for 18 years, resigned abruptly on Friday, less than two years after taking the reins as CEO. He will be replaced by Julian Clarke, himself a 30-year veteran of the company. Mr. Clarke has previously served as the chairman of the company’s Victorian arm, The Herald & Weekly Times.

Some have commented that this may represent a cultural shift within the company, while others are speculating that Mr. Clarke’s position is just a temporary step in Rupert Murdoch’s grand plans.

Since December 2011 Mr. Williams had streamlined the company’s newspaper division, a turnaround process that included laying off hundreds of workers. Mr Murdoch praised Mr. William’s performance as chief executive: “Kim has been a steady and courageous leader at a time when our businesses have faced unprecedented pressure and economic challenges. I want to thank him for his unwavering commitment, and the blood, sweat and tears he has put into News Corp Australia.”

The company has performed well since the original News Corp split itself in two in June. Twenty-First Century Fox (ASX: FOX), which contains the group’s media and entertainment assets, is up over 17%. Meanwhile, New News Corp, which primarily houses the newspaper and publishing divisions, has performed even better, with a 22% gain for shareholders. With the ASX 200 (ASX: XJO) returning just on 4% over the same period, investors have so far been well rewarded by the split.


Not surprised

Mr. Williams resignation was sudden, but for some media analysts it came as no surprise.

Dr. Margaret Simons, of the University of Melbourne, commented that the change may be part of a cultural shift taking place within the company whereby traditional newspaper executives take on leading roles: “There was a cultural battle going on within the company and obviously this is one of the outcomes”.

Another intrigue is whether this change is just a part of the Murdoch family’s succession planning. Rupert Murdoch’s son, Lachlan Murdoch has repeatedly denied suggestions that he will return to News Corp. But this has not stopped analysts speculating that the 69-year-old Clarke has only been given the CEO role as a ‘place-holder’ until Lachlan Murdoch takes over the position.

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Motley Fool contributor Matt Joass has no financial interest in any company mentioned in this article. You can follow him on Twitter @SoloThink.

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