NEW YORK (AP) — Roger Ailes has signed a new contract to continue as chief executive of Fox News Channel, the network that has become a ratings and financial powerhouse since he created it two decades ago, 21st Century Fox said Thursday.
The parent company moved quickly to lock up Ailes, 75, after speculation about his future emerged last week following news that company patriarch Rupert Murdoch was turning over some power to his sons Lachlan and James. Terms, including the length of the contract, were not disclosed. Ailes' contract was to expire next June.
Fox News is wildly popular with conservatives and has significantly more viewers than its news competitors. Its look, philosophy and personnel are a reflection of its chief executive in a manner unlike any other network. Ailes also oversees the Fox Business Network and Fox-owned local affiliates.
The announcement also said that Ailes will report jointly to Rupert, Lachlan and James Murdoch, a seemingly small detail that was at the root of questions about his future.
The financial firm SNL Kagan estimates that Fox News Channel will earn $2.18 billion in revenue from affiliates and advertising in 2015, a number likely to increase in future years as more lucrative deals with cable and satellite providers kick in. The network accounted for 18 percent of 21st Century Fox's profits in 2014, Kagan said.
With the changeover in corporate governance, it was no time to allow doubts about Ailes' future, said Andrew Heyward, former CBS News president and a consultant who advises companies on digital media content and strategy.
"Roger has built a multi-billion dollar asset essentially from scratch," Heyward said. "He identified an important audience segment that felt badly underserved and figured out a way to overserve to the enormous benefit" of the parent company.
It also continues Ailes' role as a kingmaker heading in to the 2016 presidential election. The first debate among GOP candidates will be televised on Fox, and Republicans seeking the office clamor to get their message out on Fox News Channel.
The questions about Ailes' future came up following the announcement that James Murdoch would take over as CEO of 21st Century Fox and Lachlan would be executive co-chairman. In reporting the change, Fox News reported that Ailes would continue to report to Rupert Murdoch instead of his sons, who are considered less politically conservative and don't have as strong a relationship with Ailes. But 21st Century Fox said last week that Ailes would report to the two sons, while continuing to consult with their father.
Thursday's announcement made clear that Ailes would not just report to James and Lachlan.
"I am grateful to Rupert Murdoch for taking the risk on Fox News to see it become the number one 24-hour news network in America," Ailes said. "I look forward to working with Rupert, Lachlan and James to do my part to help bring 21st Century Fox well into the future."
In a statement, Lachlan and James called Ailes "an incredibly talented executive and we're pleased he has accepted our offer to continue his extraordinary record of success at 21st Century Fox."