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News Corp. mulls the Chernin factor

October 23, 2009 |  9:14 am
Peter Chernin is not flying the News Corp. jet into Philly.

But he probably could if he wanted to. 

The veteran movie and TV executive, who stepped down as president and chief operating officer of the News Corp. media empire this summer, has spent the last few months as a key, behind-the-scenes adviser on cable giant Comcast Corp.’s negotiations to take control of NBC Universal. Revelations this week of Chernin’s involvement in the proposed deal has prompted speculation that the prominent and savvy executive could emerge as a powerful player at NBC Universal if the Philadelphia-based Comcast succeeds with its bid.

CHERNIN Chernin's new role is intriguing because of his well-known desire to head his own enterprise -- one where he is firmly in charge. The situation also is complicated by Chernin’s ongoing relationship with his old boss, Rupert Murdoch, and News Corp.

Chernin's work with Comcast does not violate his current agreement and production deal with Murdoch. Chernin has spent the last few months forming his own movie and television production company – a venture financed by News Corp. His six-year contract requires Fox to pay his new TV and film production firm’s overhead and greenlight at least two movies a year. Fox also has first crack at any TV shows that he produces. As part of Chernin's exit package, which took effect in July, he continues to enjoy an office on the Fox lot and the use of the News Corp. jet.

For now, Chernin also is free to help Comcast design a company that could become a more potent competitor to News Corp.  "Basically, News Corp. is a little bit out in the cold on this one," said Clinton Korver, a partner at the Palo Alto-based investment firm Crescendo Venture Management and co-author of the book "Ethics for the Real World," published by Harvard Business Press. 

But because of Chernin's production deal with Fox, taking a bigger role within a Comcast-run NBC Universal could become thorny. Interestingly, two of Chernin's senior staffers are also former NBC Universal executives. Read the full story in today's Los Angeles Times.

-- Meg James

Photo: Peter Chernin. Credit: Scott Eells / Bloomberg News