Why Roger Ailes Won't Walk Away

A couple of years ago, Roger Ailes would muse from time to time that maybe he would hang it up after the 2012 election and slip gracefully into retirement.

Not many people believed him. And with good reason, as it turned out.

The Fox News chairman has just signed a new, four-year deal with News Corp., as I reported exclusively on Twitter (hey, tweets are like AP dispatches these days). Those who can’t stand him or Fox will still have Ailes to kick around, at least through 2016.

For starters, Ailes, 72, isn’t the retiring type. He’s in good health and simply wasn’t ready to walk away.

He has made clear in past interviews that he believes the country is at a crossroads. Whether we’re looking at a second Obama term or a Romney administration, Ailes wants to be engaged as head of a news organization whose commentators reflect his aggressively political views. Various Republican presidential contenders, including Mitt Romney, felt the need to meet with Ailes during the primaries, and a couple of them—Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum—had been on his payroll.

Oh, and then there’s the matter of compensation. Rupert Murdoch’s company paid Ailes $21 million last year, which includes various incentives. Presumably he got a little bump up. Not easy to walk away from that money if you’re still ambulatory.

Another factor: there is no number two, no heir apparent ready to move up. Ailes personifies Fox in a way that is true for few other corporate executives.

That's in part because Ailes built Fox News from scratch, starting in 1996, and it's now a cable news powerhouse in terms of ratings. He also oversees the five-year-old Fox Business Network, which is more ratings-challenged, and the Fox network’s television stations. Whether you love or loathe Fox, it’s a business success story.

Ailes has a knack for ticking off his detractors, but he hasn’t given any interviews this election year. Now that he’s re-upped, perhaps that will change soon.