Ross Levinsohn Resigns as President of Fox Interactive

Nov 16, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Ross Levinsohn, who helped make News Corp. into a top-tier Internet competitor by engineering the company’s purchase of MySpace.com, has resigned and will leave the company. He’ll be replaced by Peter Levinsohn, a News Corp. veteran who has been working to wring revenue from the company’s digital projects.

The shakeup comes at a News Corp. division that Ross Levinsohn began building in July 2005 with an acquisition spree. In addition to purchasing IGN Entertainment and movie review site Rottentomatoes.com, he carried out the $580 million MySpace purchase, which gave News Corp. a premier spot to promote its television shows and movies on the Web.

In replacing Ross Levinsohn, a dealmaker, with Peter Levinsohn, News Corp. installs an executive whose strengths run toward managing for profit growth. Before the executive changes, Peter Levinsohn, 40, held the dual roles of president of worldwide pay television and president of digital media. He joined News Corp.’s 20th Century Fox in 1989 as a manager in the international theatrical division.

News Corp. has been trying to find new ways to generate more revenue with MySpace, and Ross Levinsohn’s departure may portend changes in the company’s strategy. MySpace Senior VP for Marketing and Content Shawn Gold declined to comment via e-mail.

Ross Levinsohn, 43, and a spokeswoman for Fox Interactive Media declined to comment.

“Launching Fox Interactive Media has been one of the most energizing and fulfilling experiences of my career,” Ross Levinsohn said in a statement Thursday. “It has been incredibly exciting to be a part of something that’s pioneering a new way for people to live their lives on the Web. I realize there are incredible opportunities in the marketplace and I look forward to my next venture.”

His departure follows the exit this month of another FIM executive, Chief Operating Officer Mark Jung, who left after nine months at News Corp. Mr. Jung was CEO of IGN, which Fox bought in September 2005 for $650 million.

MySpace’s growth may be slowing. The number of unique U.S. visitors to the site dipped to 47.2 million in September from 49.2 million in August, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.

Ross Levinsohn last month commented on Mr. Murdoch’s expectations for growth at Fox Interactive, saying News Corp. has aggressive goals to make the business a real contributor to the company’s bottom line.

The New York Times quoted Ross Levinsohn as saying Mr. Murdoch “is focused on that, and he rightfully holds my feet to the fire.”

News Corp. paid $580 million for MySpace, and Wall Street analyst Jordan Rohan in September said an “audacious” estimate could peg its worth at $15 billion in three years.

Before running Fox Interactive Media, Ross Levinsohn was general manager of Fox Sports Interactive Media. His Web pedigree preceded his days at News Corp. and included a stint as VP and executive producer of the Alta Vista network of Web sites.

Earlier, he was a VP of programming for CBS Sportsline and created the syndicated weekly television program “Football Playbook.” Ross Levinsohn also worked as director of production and marketing at HBO, and spent three years as an agent representing athletes at ProServ.

Peter Levinsohn’s appointment is effective Nov. 27. He has been president of digital media for the Fox Entertainment Group since 2004 and was a key architect of a digital revenue-sharing agreement with Fox television stations and the company’s on-demand efforts, the company said in the statement.

His other role, as president of worldwide pay TV, put him in charge of licensing Fox’s feature films and TV shows to pay television, pay-per-view, VOD and other forms of electronic distribution.

“At this point in FIM’s evolution, Peter’s adept leadership, keen knowledge of the complexities of the digital space and ability to work skillfully across multiple business lines makes him the ideal person to lead this important asset into the future,” News Corp. President and Chief Operating Officer Peter Chernin said in the statement.