Astonishing industry observers, the Fox network announced that Peter Liguori, who has been credited with boosting the network to No. 1 among both the overall audience and young adults, will leave the company. News Corp. said Liguori, chairman of Fox Entertainment, would step down immediately. "Peter Liguori has been an outstanding Fox executive, not only in leading FBC [Fox Broadcasting Co.] for three seasons, but in his groundbreaking programming that helped build [cable network] FX into a general entertainment leader. We wish him continued success," News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch said in a statement. A further statement by Liguori himself was not forthcoming. He is being replaced by British-born Peter Rice, president of Fox Searchlight, the company's specialty division that was responsible for the success of Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire and The Wrestler this past year and such films as Sideways, Little Miss Sunshine and Juno previously. "As we increasingly look to apply unconventional approaches to our traditional businesses, I'm convinced Peter Rice is the right person to transform our broadcast TV business," Murdoch said. He'll be replaced at Fox Searchlight by close associates Nancy Utley and Steve Gilula The company also announced that it is combining its film and TV production studios under Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman, the co-chairmen of Fox Filmed Entertainment. The restructuring comes in the wake of Peter Chernin's decision to step down as News Corp president. In reporting on the moves, the New York Times quoted several unnamed executives at News Corp and Fox as saying that they were aimed principally at rewarding Rice with a significant promotion that would keep him in the company and not looking for a more prominent position elsewhere. And TVWeek commented that they prompted "speculation that Mr. Murdoch may be grooming Mr. Rice for an even bigger job in the long-term."
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