During an earnings call on Wednesday, 21st Century Fox executive chairman Lachlan Murdoch sought to reassure investors that the company won’t be negatively affected by the departure of former CEO Roger Ailes following a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by former anchor Gretchen Carlson.
“Two weeks ago we received and accepted Roger Ailes’ resignation as the CEO of the business, and our father took up the responsibility of leading Fox News as chairman and acting CEO,” Lachlan Murdoch said. “Throughout this process we have moved quickly and decisively to protect the business, to protect its employees, and to protect the unique and important voice Fox News broadcasts.”
“There is no one more dedicated or more able to transition Fox News to new leadership than its founder,” Murdoch continued. “As acting CEO, he joins an existing team that is extraordinarily strong and equally devoted to its success.”
Murdoch added that the company, which earned $6.6 billion in its last quarter, will have its best year ever in terms of ratings, thanks to the strong interest in this year’s presidential election.
Ailes, who had been with Fox News since its founding in 1996, was the chief architect of what has become the most successful cable news channel in TV history. It has held down the number one spot since 2002, and is challenging ESPN for the top spot in all of cable TV.
Even though Murdoch was confident that the company would continue to fare well, investors have a good reason to be concerned about the future of Fox News without Ailes.
Rupert Murdoch is 85-years-old, and while he has been a shrewd businessman, he isn’t a TV programmer, which is what the network needs. Ailes also had a close relationship with many of its anchors, something that Murdoch likely doesn’t have, which could be a challenge as contracts with Bill O’Reilly and Megyn Kelly come up for renewal next year.
In the short term, Fox will be fine thanks to the elections. But long term, without a clear successor to Ailes, the future at Fox News looks a lot shakier than it did just two months ago.