Fox Business host Trish Regan was personally prepared by ex-Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes as a replacement for host Megyn Kelly, people familiar with the matter told Business Insider.
Multiple sources said that before entering contract negotiations with Kelly, Ailes aimed to prepare Regan to take the role in case he needed to fill the 9 p.m. time slot.
Kelly announced Tuesday that after 12 years at Fox News, she had chosen to depart for NBC News. The move sent shockwaves through the cable news industry, immediately prompting observers to speculate as to who would replace her.
Conventional wisdom indicated that Fox News executives would look to appoint a female host to the role to offset an otherwise all-male primetime lineup.
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Regan, who hosts the 2 p.m. hour on Fox Business, was immediately seen as a top contender for the job. Others mentioned were Shannon Bream and Sandra Smith, both of whom have frequently filled in for Kelly. Another possibility was "The Five" host Kimberly Guilfoyle, who was considered as a contender for the press secretary post in President-elect Donald Trump's administration.
People familiar with the matter, however, said if Ailes were still helming the network, the replacement choice would almost undoubtedly be Regan, who is seen as a rising star at Fox.
The 44-year-old has demonstrated the ability to cover breaking news and developing stories, while also moderating political panels, a staple of cable news. Regan also hosted an undercard GOP debate during the primaries and has frequently filled in for Kelly.
But whether Regan is promoted to the role in a post-Ailes era remains to be seen.
Since his departure, Rupert Murdoch, the Fox News chief executive and 21st Century Fox co-chair, has indicated to the staff that he intends to invest in old-fashioned journalism, people familiar with the matter said.
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Sources at Fox, however, said they have doubts on whether Murdoch will deliver. They point to the decision to give conservative journalist Tucker Carlson the 7 p.m. slot after Greta Van Susteren's departure, instead of opting for a more down-the-middle host like Bream.
If Murdoch continues in the Ailes mold of building a primetime lineup of conservative personalities, Regan would be well-positioned for the role. She has expressed views that position her as more favorable toward Trump than Kelly, who famously clashed with the president-elect on the campaign trail. If, however, he chooses to tap a more traditional journalist to replace Kelly, Bream or someone in her mold may score the spot.
Either way, whomever Murdoch selects for the role will signal the direction Fox News intends to take with Trump residing in the White House.
A Fox News spokesperson declined to comment. It's not clear when the network will name Kelly's replacement.