James Murdoch is reshuffling News Corporation's Star Asian television operations as he slashes 30% of its HQ staff in Hong Kong, his biggest move yet to stamp his mark on the most promising growth area in his father's media empire.
The announcement made Tuesday by James Murdoch, News Corp.'s chairman and CEO in Europe and Asia, confirmed previous reports that the conglomerate will dismantle STAR's Asian regional business that has been based in Hong Kong since 1991.
From now on, Star will be organized in three distinct business divisions: Star India, Star Greater China, and Fox International Channels, which distributes English-language channels in the rest of Asia.
In February of this year, my father (Rupert Murdoch) wrote to the whole company saying that it was rare to face an environment so fraught with difficulty yet so full of opportunity. He reminded us that we must renew our focus on large opportunities and prepare for change. It is in this context that we seek to build truly special businesses in STAR India, STAR Greater China and Fox International Channels, said James Murdoch in his address to staff.
(The restructuring) reinforces STAR India's leading position at a time when India is exploding with opportunity. It creates a clear focus for our business in Greater China and it gives Fox International Channels greater scale which makes it the new number one in the region.
India now accounts for more than three-quarters of Star's approximately $1bn in annual revenue.
STAR's CEO Paul Aiello is exiting as part of the breakup and will quit the company in December after a hand over period. COO Laureen Ong's departure this month was announced in July. The bosses of the Chinese and Indian businesses will now report directly to Murdoch.
The changes will take place over the next year, with much being accomplished by the end of this fiscal year, said Murdoch in a letter to staff seen by The Hollywood Reporter. As STAR India and STAR Greater China add capabilities, our operations in Hong Kong will get smaller, with a reduction of 30% expected by June.
STAR currently employs approximately 500 in Hong Kong.
News Corp. says the sweeping changes will improve operating efficiency by moving resources closer to viewers, increasing scale and flexibility for advertisers and affiliates.
We are now reshaping a big, regional organization into three highly focused business units, each of which will be intensely competitive in its target marketplace. While it was once natural to have a larger, regional headquarters, the company has now reached a scale in its key local markets where we are ready to empower the teams on the ground and move a number of functions to be closer to viewers, the company said in a statement.
Since being given his broader role at News Corp in February, Murdoch has concentrated on increasing revenues at the British newspaper businesses, which include The Sun and The Times, but the appointment of Sun editor Rebekah Wade as News International chief executive in the UK allows him to turn his focus to Asia.
Murdoch, 36, spent three years in Hong Kong running Star TV from 2000, before moving to the UK to run British Sky Broadcasting - a varied apprenticeship in the family business that has made him the most likely candidate to succeed his 78-year-old father.