The creator of News Corp.'s profit engine -- Fox News -- is believed responsible for $700 million in operating earnings for the parent company, more than CNN, MSNBC and the evening newscasts of NBC, ABC and CBS combined, The New York Times says today in a must-read profile of CEO Rupert Murdoch's right-hand man.
That success has put Roger Ailes (left) "at the pinnacle of power in three corridors of American life: business, media and politics,'' the NYT's David Carr and Tim Arango report. "In addition to being the best-paid person in the News Corporation last year, he is the most successful news executive of the last 10 years, and his network exerts a strong influence on the fractured conservative movement."
Ailes is well-paid for his outsized contributions to NWS' bottom line: he made $23.7 million last fiscal year in salary, bonuses and other compensation -- more than Murdoch, who got $19.9 million. Ailes' annual pay was more than double the $10.9 million he received in 2007, according to the August 2009 proxy report to shareholders, a public document filed annually with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
His influence extends well beyond the Fox News franchise. The Times says Ailes threatened to quit when he heard that Murdoch was going to endorse Barack Obama via the editorial page of the New York Post -- an allegation that Ailes denies.
But he isn't universally loved within the Murdoch empire or his family. In a strikingly candid statement, Murdoch's son-in-law, Matthew Freud, an influential publicist in London, told the Times: "I am by no means alone within the family or the company in being ashamed and sickened by Roger Ailes' horrendous and sustained disregard of the journalistic standards that News Corporation, its founder and every other global media business aspires to."
Freud is married to Elisabeth Murdoch, a London television producer; she is one of Murdoch's three adult children.
What's more, the NYT notes, Lachlan Murdoch (left) -- Rupert's eldest son, and once his heir-apparent -- quit a senior News Corp. post in 2004 when he felt Ailes was encroaching on his corporate territory.
Conspicuously absent in the story are any views on Ailes held by the third child, James, 36, the only one of the siblings employed in the company. James is chairman and CEO of the company's operations in Europe and Asia. He's also a member of the board of directors, and is seen as a likely successor to Rupert.
Moreover, Ailes' position as a megaphone for right-leaning causes and candidates has made him a high-profile target among his most rabid critics. "His movements now are shadowed by a phalanx of corporate-provided security,'' the NYT reports. "He travels to and from work in a miniature convoy of two sport utility vehicles."
His security benefit cost NWS $54,494 last fiscal year, the August proxy report says.
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[Today's New York Post, Newseum]