Rupert Murdoch stepping down as CEO of 21st Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOX) has been rumored and anticipated for years. The media has followed every twist and turn at the company, focusing specifically on the various positions his children have held at Fox and its brands over the years.
Now, the much-mulled event appears to be actually happening.
What: The 84-year-old CEO appears to be preparing to hand the title to his son James, CNBC reported, citing "numerous sources close to the Murdoch family." The younger Murdoch would actually share power with his brother Lachlan, according to the report. The elder Murdoch would retain the title of executive chairman, which Lachlan would also assume.
According to the news site, Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey, who has been long rumored to be looking to leave the company, will step down, but remain as an advisor through 2016.
Moves to formalize a succession plan for the company would likely ease some investor fears, but would such a shuffle change anything?
So what: Rupert Murdoch might be taking on a new title and letting go of some day-to-day operations, but he wouldn't really be giving up control. He remains Fox's controlling shareholder.
This would be a change in control in name only. The two Murdoch brothers would apparently share the workload with their father, but it's hard to believe Rupert Murdoch is actually stepping aside. It's more likely that dad will retain final say while his children ease into their roles to prepare for the day when their father is no longer capable of involvement.
It's wouldn't be a seismic change, but Carey's exit would leave the company without a non-Murdoch in its top leadership.
Now what: A Fox spokesperson would not confirm the alleged executive shuffle, but did tell CNBC that "the matter of succession is on the board of director's agenda at its next regularly scheduled meeting."
The challenge for the company would be establishing the Murdoch brothers as the steady leaders their father has long been. That will take time, and this would be a safe way to begin a transition that would have to happen at some point. Rupert Murdoch deserves credit for acknowledging his own mortality and sparing his company the tumult of a change in CEOs due to death or illness.
In the short term a Murdoch exec shuffle does not matter. It's just cosmetic. But in the long run it would bring stability.