By Anna Driver
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Rupert Murdoch on Friday named company veterans Jack Abernethy and Bill Shine as co-presidents to lead Fox News after Chief Executive Officer Roger Ailes resigned last month following sexual harassment allegations.
Abernethy is CEO of Fox Television Stations and Shine is senior executive vice president at Fox, a unit of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc
Both men worked at Fox when it launched in 1996. They will report to Murdoch, who has been running the day-to-day operations of the cable network on an interim basis. The appointments are effective immediately, Fox said.
“While this has been a time of great transition, there has never been a greater opportunity for Fox News and Fox Business to better serve and expand their audiences,” Murdoch, executive chairman of 21st Century Fox and Fox News, said in a statement.
Ailes, who turned Fox into America’s most lucrative and powerful cable news channel for conservatives, resigned in July following allegations of sexual harassment.
Former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson sued Ailes last month, claiming sexual harassment. Ailes has denied the charges. Fox hired a law firm to conduct an internal investigation.
New York magazine followed up with reports of other women who said they had been harassed by Ailes. The magazine also said popular Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly had told investigators hired by Fox that Ailes “made unwanted sexual advances toward her” about 10 years ago. Ailes has denied those charges as well.
By choosing two men who worked under Ailes for years, Fox sent viewers and advertisers a message of continuity in an important election year, said Merrill Brown, who helped launch MSNBC and is now director of the school of communication at Montclair State University.
But that strategy could carry risk if the independent probe reveals the harassment allegations were known to more people at Fox, he said.
The Wall Street Journal on Thursday reported that Twenty-First Century Fox anticipates having to settle with the women who said they were victims of harassment by Ailes. The number of women who have come forward in the internal probe are in the double digits, the paper said.
A representative for Twenty-First Century Fox did not immediately return a call for comment.
Abernethy, 60, will continue to run Fox Television Stations and will oversee all business components of Fox News Channel and Fox Business News, including finance and ad sales.
Shine, 53, will run all programming and news functions of each network including production and talent management. He will also continue to oversee all strategic planning through the election season.
Fox News also named Suzanne Scott as executive vice president of programming and development for Fox News Channel and said Chief Financial Officer Mark Kranz was retiring.
When Twenty-First Century Fox reported earnings last week, it said Fox News was on track to record its highest-rated year ever. When Co-Executive Chairman Lachlan Murdoch was asked if Fox News would change its strategy, Murdoch said:
“There is no desire or need to shift the position it has in the market.”
Shares of Twenty-First Century Fox ended down 14 cents, or less than 1 percent, at $26.02 on Friday.
(Additional reporting by Rishika Sadam in Bengaluru; Editing by Leslie Adler and David Gregorio)