Roger Ailes’s tenure as the head of Fox News appears to be over.
Mr. Ailes and 21st Century Fox, Fox News’s parent company, are in the advanced stages of discussions that would lead to his departure as chairman, Susan Estrich, one of Mr. Ailes’s lawyers, said in an interview on Tuesday.
The development follows a sexual harassment suit filed on July 6 against Mr. Ailes by a former anchor, Gretchen Carlson. The suit prompted 21st Century Fox to conduct an internal review and it set off an intense round of speculation in the news media and the television industry about Mr. Ailes’s future at Fox News.
On Tuesday, the sides were negotiating terms that could include Mr. Ailes’s staying on in a consulting role for Fox News. Ms. Estrich said nothing had been finalized about what sort of continuing role he could have at the network.
“Roger is at work,” 21st Century Fox said in a statement. “The review is ongoing. And the only agreement that is in place is his existing employment agreement.”
Mr. Ailes’s exit would be a humbling and startlingly sudden fall from power for a man who started Fox News from scratch 20 years ago and built it into a top-rated cable news network and a critical profit center for 21st Century Fox. Along the way, Mr. Ailes, a former Republican operative, established Fox News as the leading media platform for conservative politics. He also minted prime-time stars like Bill O’Reilly, Megyn Kelly and Greta Van Susteren.
Mr. Ailes, 76, has also long been at the center of Republican politics, and the timing of the discussions between Mr. Ailes and 21st Century Fox was remarkable, occurring on the second day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
News of Mr. Ailes’s impending exit landed like a shock wave in Cleveland, where many of the nation’s leading television executives and personalities were gathered in tight quarters. Several Fox anchors who were approached on Tuesday afternoon declined to comment on Mr. Ailes’s fate, many having followed developments from the chaotic convention scene.
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The timing of this unfortunate episode is highly suspicious. Fox News run by Ailes will lean toward Trump. Fox News with the Murdoch boys…
Paul Drake false
“And being left dumbstruck by a stunning woman in clothing that would be banned in most office settings – that’s ogling? “A number of former…
Sooner or later, those who abuse their power, self-destruct.Always.
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Rupert Murdoch, who was on vacation with his wife, Jerry Hall, on the French Riviera, had been in constant telephone contact with his sons, James and Lachlan, on the matter, according to a person familiar with the discussions. All three were in agreement on Mr. Ailes’s fate, the person said, though the moment was particularly poignant for the elder Mr. Murdoch, whose successful partnership with Mr. Ailes spanned more than two decades. Both James and Lachlan have had disagreements with Mr. Ailes over the years.
One of the people who participated in the investigation was the network’s most popular female star, Ms. Kelly. She told investigators that Mr. Ailes had made advances toward her multiple times in the past, according to two people briefed on the matter. (Ms. Kelly’s accusations were first reported by New York magazine.) Other employees also told the investigators that they had been harassed by Mr. Ailes, one of the people briefed on the matter said.
In a statement, Ms. Estrich, Mr. Ailes’s lawyer, said: “Roger Ailes has never sexually harassed Megyn Kelly. In fact, he has spent much of the last decade promoting and helping her to achieve the stardom she earned, for which she has repeatedly and publicly thanked him.”
Ms. Kelly’s lawyer, Willis J. Goldsmith, said in a statement, “Megyn Kelly has made no public comment on the matter, nor will she while the review is pending, other than to say she has cooperated with the inquiry fully and truthfully.”
Her revelations to investigators contrast with comments she made earlier about the Fox News chairman. In an interview two months ago, before a prime-time special that Mr. Ailes orchestrated, she said she “loved working for Roger Ailes.”
“The number of times he’s had my back, given me opportunities, stuck his own neck out there to protect me, I feel very grateful to him,” she said. “And I feel loyal to him.”
The events leading to Tuesday’s developments began when Ms. Carlson, who had been an anchor in Fox News’s afternoon lineup, filed a lawsuit saying she had been fired from her weekday show on Fox News after rebuffing sexual advances from Mr. Ailes.
On the day Ms. Carlson filed her suit, 21st Century Fox said it would conduct an internal review, and the company retained the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to lead the investigation.
Though more than a dozen on-air personalities have come forward in the last two weeks to publicly support Mr. Ailes — with several questioning Ms. Carlson’s motivations — Ms. Kelly was, noticeably, not among them. She has the stature within the network to withstand any pressure to support Mr. Ailes. In part, that is because of her high ratings (she has the second-highest-rated show in cable news, behind only Mr. O’Reilly’s), but she is also well liked by the Murdoch family, which has indicated it would like her to be an important part of Fox’s future. Ms. Kelly’s contract expires next year.
News of Mr. Ailes’s impending exit played out chaotically over the last two days. In response to a New York magazine article on Monday that said the Murdochs were ready to push Mr. Ailes out, 21st Century Fox further fueled speculation by issuing a statement saying, “This matter is not yet resolved.”
A version of Mr. Ailes’s potential separation agreement — which included a consultancy clause and a $40 million payout — was posted online by The Drudge Report on Tuesday afternoon, prompting Fox to scramble to inform reporters that the agreement was not final. The Drudge Report, which like Fox News came of age in the late 1990s, deleted its initial Twitter message that included the agreement.
Later, The Drudge Report reported that some of the network’s stars were planning a meeting to discuss a potential walk-off, raising questions about whether Mr. Ailes would seek to persuade them to leave the network with him, if their contracts permitted.
But Ms. Estrich, his lawyer, said he would work to ensure a smooth transition.
“Roger Ailes is committed to the future and success of Fox News, and he’s devoted the last 20 years of his life to building it and he hopes it will survive long past his time and Rupert’s time,” she said. “Nobody is more committed to Fox News than the man who built it.”
Some of Fox News’s prime-time stars have a clause in their contracts that would permit them to leave if Mr. Ailes were no longer in a position of power. And though 21st Century Fox executives are aware of those clauses, they are prepared to take on that risk, a person familiar with the discussions said.
Fox News has been the No. 1-rated cable news station for 15 years, and it has never done better than this year: Through June, it is having its highest-rated year. In October, Fox News will celebrate its 20th anniversary, a milestone executives have been proudly discussing for months.
Fox News has long been controversial, and an occasional source of embarrassment to other parts of 21st Century Fox, but it has been good for business. Fox News represents about 20 percent of all earnings at 21st Century Fox, generating more than $1 billion.
Meanwhile, the lawsuit against Mr. Ailes continues to grind on. On Monday, Ms. Carlson’s lawyers asked a New Jersey federal judge to dismiss Mr. Ailes’s motion that the case be sent to New York federal court and then submitted for arbitration. Mr. Ailes is named in the suit but Fox News is not.
In the suit, Ms. Carlson accuses Mr. Ailes of ogling her in his office and calling her “sexy.” She also said she had been sexually harassed by her former “Fox and Friends” co-host, Steve Doocy.
When asked about the culture at Fox News in an interview with The New York Times last week, Ms. Carlson, 50, said: “Everyone knew how powerful Roger Ailes was. I certainly felt intimidated by that.”
She said that during a meeting last fall to discuss her concerns that she was being treated unfairly, Mr. Ailes told her, “I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago, and then you’d be good and better and I’d be good and better.”
Her description of sexual harassment and retaliation was followed by accounts of other women who said Mr. Ailes acted inappropriately in professional settings from the mid-1960s to the late 1980s.
Mr. Ailes and his lawyers have been unequivocal in their response to the accusations: He said that Ms. Carlson’s contract was not renewed because it had low ratings, and his lawyers said that all of the allegations were false.