Chernin Resurfaces in Asia

Three weeks after his name was bandied about as a possible candidate to assume the role of CEO at the Tribune Co., former News Corp. president and chief operations officer Peter Chernin has announced a new venture that will take him overseas.

On Monday, Chernin announced the launch of CA Media, a Hong-Kong-based startup that will fund emerging media, entertainment and sports businesses across Asia. Chernin will serve as chairman of the new venture.

Joining Chernin is Paul Aiello, the former CEO of News Corp.’s Asian cable TV service, STAR Group. Aiello, who left STAR in December 2009, will serve as CEO of CA Media.

Guessing where Chernin would resurface after his departure from News Corp. has been a favorite parlor game of sorts in media circles, and the rumors about the Tribune job were just the latest to be churned up by the blogosphere. (Chernin has said that he was never interested in the job, which suddenly became available when Tribune sacked chief exec Randy Michaels, whose tenure at the troubled media conglomerate was marked by gross financial mismanagement and allegations of sexual harassment.)

Other whispers had Chernin packing his bags for new digs at Apple, Viacom and Microsoft.

Chernin in February of 2009 announced he would not re-up with News Corp. when his contract expired that June. The 58-year-old functioned as Rupert Murdoch’s much-liked ambassador to Wall Street and Hollywood, overseeing News Corp.’s various media holdings, including the broadcast and cable TV segments, filmed entertainment, distribution and publishing. He joined News Corp. in 1989 and was named president and COO in October 1996.

Before leaving News Corp., Chernin had indicated that he was a placeholder for the Murdoch heir who would eventually take the reins. (James Murdoch apparently was not ready to assume the role upon Chernin’s departure; Chase Carey now serves in that capacity.)

In a note to News Corp. staffers released the morning he announced his decision, Chernin took the path of least resistance, saying he was leaving to pursue “new entrepreneurial challenges.”

By way of cutting the ribbon on his new venture, Chernin said he and his partners “see tremendous opportunity across Asia, but particularly in India, China, and Indonesia,” adding that, “These markets provide the ideal blend of economic, demographic, and industrial dynamism required to build a pan-Asian media organization of significant scale.”

In addition to The Chernin Group––the Los Angeles-based fund invests in media, tech and entertainment––initial investors in CA Media include Aiello, Allen & Company and Brookside Capital (an affiliate of Bain Capital), among others.

Over the course of the coming year, CA Media plans to team up with local entrepreneurs, strategic partners and financing sources to launch new enterprises and enhance the growth of businesses in their formative stages. As the company finds its feet, it will begin to selectively pursue later-stage transactions

“In Asia, there is less distinction between ‘traditional media’ and ‘new media,’” Chernin said. “Nearly everything is growing, which allows for more robust prospects across the industry––prospects that we find enormously exciting.”