On Thursday evening, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp issued a surprising press release announcing that mustachioed New York Post boss Jesse Angelo would be “departing the company.” He is to be replaced as publisher and C.E.O. of the Post by Chief Revenue Officer Sean Giancola, according to the announcement, which also revealed the elevation of managing editor Michelle Gotthelf to the new position of digital editor in chief. The days when tabloid personnel shifts were seen as big news are long gone, but Angelo is a different story—the type that merits, say, a write-up in the Financial Times.
Angelo, after all, is a media darling of a bygone age. He was James Murdoch’s kindergarten bestie, and later, his best man—a veritable fifth (and then seventh) Murdoch kid, who worked his way up the ladder at various enterprises within the family business. He did a U.K. tour at The Sun during a year off from Harvard, and after graduation, he landed at Australia’s Daily Telegraph. Angelo joined the Post in 1999 and swiftly ascended the ranks, becoming the paper’s top business executive in 2012, and ushering in an era of digital growth for the famously money-losing News Corp tabloid. In 2011, when News Corp launched an ambitious but short-lived iPad publication called The Daily, Rupert chose Angelo as its editor in chief. In 2017, when Roger Ailes was ousted from Fox News, Angelo’s name briefly surfaced as a possible contender to run the network. That same year, he was given an additional brief overseeing a major digital-advertising initiative at News Corp, which owns newspapers all over the world, leading to speculation that Angelo could very well end up running the whole company some day. Now, suddenly, he was out. “After 20 years at the Post, it is time for me to move on and let someone else write the next chapter,” Angelo said in the News Corp release. “I will always be thankful to Rupert.”
Media watchers quickly assumed there was more between the lines, and it appears their instincts were correct. “This went down very fast,” someone with direct knowledge of the situation told me. Other sources with direct knowledge of the situation told me that Angelo learned in recent days not only of Gotthelf’s expanded digital role, but also about talks to bring back former Post editor in chief Col Allan, who retired in 2016 and was succeeded by Stephen Lynch, in an advisory capacity. These moves signaled change that Angelo wasn’t driving, which created conflict, and he saw them as a diversion from the direction the Post had taken under his watch, according to sources familiar with his thinking.
In Allan’s case, the talk of his return wasn’t just a potential digital-strategy hindrance—it also looked like it could be an omen for editorial coverage. “Col coming back is like giving the keys to a Ferrari to a teenager,” said one source with knowledge of how it all went down, adding that if Allan does indeed come back as an adviser, “The Post will certainly get more on the Trump bandwagon.” (Angelo didn’t return text messages or a call. Reps for the Post and News Corp didn’t have comments. Allan could not be reached.)
Allan, a pit bull of a tabloid editor if there ever was one, was a mentor to Angelo. He was editor of the Telegraph back when Angelo was a cub reporter there; after Allan took the reins of the Post in 2001, Angelo became one of Allan’s top newsroom lieutenants. But they also clashed over strategy, as Allan resisted the Web-first gospel that Angelo and his digital team were preaching. Additionally, it’s worth noting that Allan is a documented Trump cheerleader—he was notably seen sporting a MAGA baseball cap in the Post newsroom during the 2016 campaigns.
While the Post has always leaned right tonally under Murdoch—particularly in its fire-breathing opinion pages—Murdoch and Trump are known to speak regularly, and members of the newsroom, according to someone familiar with the dynamic, suspect that the Post might become more of a Trump mouthpiece as the 2020 election season heats up. The opinion programming at Murdoch’s American cable-news powerhouse is already a veritable mouthpiece. But The Wall Street Journal, which Murdoch also owns, has broken a string of big stories that are problematic for Trump, and there have been instances where its conservative editorial pages were sharply critical of administration policy.
Palace intrigue aside, the timing of Angelo’s departure coincides with another professional narrative. For the past few years, James Murdoch has been out of the loop at News Corp, which is run by Rupert and James’s brother, Lachlan, and instead focused on his role as C.E.O. of sister company 21st Century Fox. And with 21CF’s sale to Disney entering the home stretch, James will soon be a free agent. As I reported in September, James has taken an office in downtown Manhattan, which is expected to serve as the command center for his post-Fox career, which a source told me will likely involve investing “in a handful of efforts” in media, tech, and other areas. Bloomberg confirmed the establishment of Murdoch’s office earlier this week, reporting that it would have a staff of about 10 people.
After Angelo’s News Corp departure was announced, multiple media insiders immediately speculated to me that he would join James in his new endeavor—a move that seems almost like a plot arc from Succession. But people who know both men told me that’s not in the cards right now. Instead, those who know Angelo say they wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up veering into the television realm. One of his big projects over the past couple of years was selling a show to the Fox stations based on the Post’s legendary gossip franchise, Page Six. (Side note: Angelo’s wife, Rebecca, is a former journalist-turned-television writer.)
In a farewell statement, News Corp C.E.O. Robert Thomson said, “We thank Jesse Angelo for his many and varied contributions to our company as a journalist, editor, and publisher, and for his leadership during the digital transformation of the Post.”
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