NEW YORK • Mr Roger Ailes has stepped down as chairman and chief executive of Fox News after a sexual harassment scandal, ending a 20-year reign as head of the cable network he built into a ratings juggernaut and an influential platform for Republican politics.
Mr Rupert Murdoch, the 85-year-old media mogul who started Fox News with Mr Ailes, will assume the role of chairman and will be an interim chief executive of Fox News channel and Fox Business Network until a permanent replacement for Mr Ailes is found.
Mr Ailes will receive about US$40 million (S$54.2 million) as part of a settlement agreement, according to two people briefed on the matter, which essentially amounts to the remainder of his existing employment contract up until 2018.
As part of the agreement, Mr Ailes cannot start a competitor to Fox News and he will continue to make himself available as an adviser to Mr Murdoch on an interim basis.
Mr Murdoch praised Mr Ailes, 76, and his "remarkable contribution" to the company, without mentioning the sexual harassment scandal that felled him.
"Roger shared my vision of a great and independent television organisation and executed it brilliantly over 20 great years," Mr Murdoch said. "Fox News has given voice to those who were ignored by the traditional networks and has been one of the great commercial success stories of modern media."
In his resignation letter, Mr Ailes did not indicate he had done anything wrong.
"I take particular pride in the role that I have played advancing the careers of the many women I have promoted to executive and on-air positions," he wrote. However, he added: "I will not allow my presence to become a distraction from the work that must be done every day to ensure that Fox News and Fox Business continue to lead our industry."
The resignation marks a swift downfall for Mr Ailes, who advised several US presidents, including Mr George H.W. Bush, and turned Fox News into the most-watched US cable news channel.
Former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson sued Mr Ailes earlier this month, claiming sexual harassment. Mr Ailes has denied the charges. Fox hired a law firm to conduct an internal investigation.
New York Magazine followed up with reports of other women who said they had been harassed by Mr Ailes. On Tuesday, the magazine said that popular Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly had told investigators hired by Fox that Mr Ailes "made unwanted sexual advances toward her" about 10 years ago.
Mr Ailes, who founded the cable channel in 1996, did not sexually harass Ms Kelly, according to a statement attributed to his lawyer in The New York Times on Tuesday.
The resignation comes as Fox News, known for a line-up of politically conservative commentators, is drawing record viewership in the US. The channel had an average of 2.2 million prime-time viewers in June, according to Nielsen data.
NEW YORK TIMES, REUTERS