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Murdoch installs new CEO, publisher at Dow Jones; son James takes on bigger role

    NEW YORK — Rupert Murdoch installed his own leadership team at Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Co. on Friday, a week before his acquisition of the company is expected to close. He also tapped his son James as heir apparent to his media empire News Corp.
    Les Hinton, who has spent his career at News Corp.’s newspapers, will become CEO of Dow Jones next week, following a vote of the company’s shareholders on Dec. 13. Hinton currently oversees News Corp.’s papers in the United Kingdom, including The Times, The Times Literary Supplement, The Sun, and News of the World.
    Robert Thomson, editor of The Times, will become publisher of the Journal. Dow Jones also owns Dow Jones Newswires, Barron’s and a news database business called Factiva.
    Murdoch’s takeover of Dow Jones triggered several other executive changes, including the departures of Dow Jones’ CEO Richard Zannino; Wall Street Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz and general counsel Joseph Stern.
    News Corp. declined to make Hinton or other executives available for interviews.
    Murdoch’s son James, meanwhile, was appointed to a new role overseeing News Corp.’s media businesses in Europe and Asia, which include the U.K. newspaper group and two satellite TV operators, Sky Italia and the Hong Kong-based Star Group.
    The move clearly puts the 34-year-old James in line to succeed his father, clearing up lingering questions about who would be next in line to lead News Corp. after Rupert Murdoch, who is 76. Murdoch has said he wants to keep control of the company within his family.
    James Murdoch had been head of the U.K. satellite TV broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC but will relinquish that role. He will also rejoin the board of News Corp., which owns about 38 percent of BSkyB.
    Rupert Murdoch was originally rebuffed in his bid for Dow Jones by the Bancroft family, which had controlled the storied newspaper publisher for more than a century. A union representing Journal employees also opposed him, as did former board member and shareholder Jim Ottaway Jr., citing concerns about preserving the Journal’s editorial independence and quality.
    But after several months of campaigning this summer, Murdoch was able to win over enough of the fractious Bancroft family to ensure the success of his bid, which values Dow Jones at more than $5 billion. News Corp. also agreed to set up an oversight board tasked with ensuring the Journal’s editorial independence.
    The $60 per-share price that Murdoch offered represented a massive premium of 65 percent over the price that Dow Jones shares were trading at just prior the offer becoming public. No other bidders came forward at that price.
    Murdoch has said the Journal has huge potential for growth thanks to the booming demand for business news and information around the globe. He has also said he wants to compete more aggressively with The New York Times for national readers and advertisers, while beefing up the Journal’s Washington reporting, overseas and online operations.
    As publisher, Thomson will oversee the Journal’s editorial operations, and the Journal’s managing editor Marcus Brauchli will report to him. At The Times of London, Thomson will be succeeded by James Harding, business and city editor of the paper.
    Murdoch has frequently mentioned the possibility of making the Journal’s Web site free or partially free in an effort to capture more online advertising. The Journal has been the only newspaper to succeed in building a large base of paying online customers, which currently stands at about 1 million.
    Crovitz, who oversaw the Journal’s Web site as publisher, said in an interview that News Corp. has any number of ‘‘great options’’ for the business model of WSJ.com, noting that the site still gets a wide audience of about 10 million visitors per month, despite much of the site being limited to paying subscribers.
    Murdoch has said he believes any losses in subscription revenues would be more than outweighed by gains in advertising. The New York Times recently abandoned an effort to charge subscription fees for some premium material on its Web site, citing the same reason.
    Even before officially taking the reins of Dow Jones, Murdoch has made his presence felt in other ways as well. In late November the company said it would look for a buyer for its remaining six community newspapers, and also said it would expand the distribution of a new glossy magazine called Pursuits globally, instead of just in the United States as originally planned.

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