Murdoch Seeks Fresh Start as Another Fox News Luminary Departs
(Bloomberg) -- The revamped Fox News is taking shape, one high-profile departure at a time.
Bill Shine, the network’s co-president, resigned Thursday, and a person familiar with the matter said the company is hunting for a replacement as part of an effort to rebuild its ranks after a sexual-harassment scandal. Shine’s exit follows the ousters of Roger Ailes, the co-founder and chairman of Fox News, in August and of Bill O’Reilly, the network’s most popular host, last month.
By parting ways with the three men, all of whom have been with the network since its inception in 1996, the news channel is taking steps to make public break from its past. The moves also gives Rupert Murdoch, the billionaire who controls Fox News parent 21st Century Fox Inc., the chance to prove Fox News’s success doesn’t rely on any one personality.
“There’s a tremendous brand that’s been built,” said Rich Greenfield, media analyst at BTIG LLC. “No brand is impenetrable, but the brand is bigger than the people under it.”
Fox will still have plenty of old hands to rely on, even as it brings a new manager on board. Shine’s co-president, Jack Abernethy, remains in his post. Two other long-time executives, Suzanne Scott and Jay Wallace, were elevated to president of programming and president of news respectively, Fox News said in a statement.
Andrea Tantaros, a former Fox host, claimed in a lawsuit that Shine knew of former network chairman Ailes’s alleged misconduct and ignored it. Shine has denied the claim.
One of Fox News’s most popular hosts, Sean Hannity, took to Twitter last week to defend Shine, saying his departure would be the end of the network “as we know it.” A Fox News spokesperson confirmed Monday Hannity will remain with the channel.
Shine, a two-decade veteran of Fox News, had been guiding the network’s day-to-day operations as the sexual-harassment scandal unfolded. Ailes was replaced in August as chairman of Fox News by Murdoch, who’s also the chairman and controlling shareholder of 21st Century Fox. Shine and Abernethy were named co-presidents in that shakeup.
“I know Bill was respected and liked by everybody at Fox News,” Murdoch said in a memo to employees Monday. “We will all miss him.”
Even as the backstage drama has unfolded, Fox News has maintained its lead in the ratings over CNN and MSNBC, with newer faces such as Tucker Carlson. 21st Century Fox shares have dropped 6.2 percent since an April 1 New York Times report on allegations against O’Reilly.
Shine joined Fox News in 1996 as the producer of “Hannity & Colmes” and rose through the ranks to oversee the network’s entire programming slate, including Hannity’s eventual transition to become a solo host. Hannity now regularly wins the ratings for his slot at 10 p.m. New York time.
Eleven current and former Fox News employees filed a class-action race-bias lawsuit against Fox last week. And CNN reported last week that a federal investigation into financial settlements with accusers has been widened to include the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which has jurisdiction over mail-fraud cases. Fox declined to comment.
Another Fox News host, Jesse Watters, has been defending himself this week from critics who say a comment he made on air about Ivanka Trump was inappropriate. Watters said he was misinterpreted. The host, whose show “The Five” just moved to prime time this week after O’Reilly’s departure, said Wednesday he’s on vacation for the rest of the week. Watters remains with the network, a Fox News spokesperson said Monday.