Rupert Murdoch preparing to step down as 21st Century Fox chief

Rupert Murdoch is preparing to step down as chief executive of his global media and entertainment empire 21st Century Fox and hand the role over to his youngest son James.

Murdoch is expected to continue as executive chairman of the company with his eldest son Lachlan Murdoch becoming an executive co-chairman.

The restructuring marks the first time the three Murdochs will run the global film and television business without a layer of senior management outside the family.

The appointments will not necessarily clarify which of Murdoch’s sons eventually takes over the running of the global media business although the 84-year-old’s decision to stand down as chief executive suggests that the issue of succession has become more pressing.

A spokeswoman for 21st Century Fox said: “The matter of succession is on the agenda at our upcoming, regularly scheduled board meeting.” The next meeting is due next week.

21st Century Fox employs more than 25,000 people around the world, spanning the Fox TV channels, movie studio 20th Century Fox and a 39% stake in pay-TV business Sky.

the is separate from Murdoch’s publishing empire News Corp, home to the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times in the UK and the Wall Street Journal in the US, which was split from his entertainment business two years ago. Murdoch stepped down as chief executive of that business in 2012 but remains as executive chairman.

The news comes as the 84-year-old has become increasingly detached from the entertainment empire to focus on his newspaper assets at News Corp despite the fact that the former provides the lion’s share of group revenues.

As a result of the changes, Chase Carey will stand down from the business but the veteran television executive is expected to remain as an adviser at the company.

The departure of Carey marks the first time the company has been managed without a layer of senior management outside the family for the first time.

For many years that role was filled ably by Peter Chernin, who departed as News Corp.’s COO in 2009 and was succeeded by Carey, who is widely lauded by shareholders for his management of the company’s cable networks.

Shares in Fox A shares fell 1% or 28c to $32.67 immediately after the news.