News Corp. (NWSA) Chairman Rupert Murdoch and his son, James, are under mounting pressure from U.K. lawmakers to take responsibility for a phone-hacking scandal after bowing to calls for Rebekah Brooks to resign.
Some people close to the Murdoch family and News Corp.’s directors think it would make sense for Murdoch to relinquish his job as chief executive officer and stay on as chairman. Although a leadership change hasn’t been formally discussed by the board, the situation is fluid and everything is possible, said one of the people, who wouldn’t be identified because the matter isn’t public.
The resignation of Brooks, who edited the News of the World tabloid at the time of the alleged phone-hacking, marks a U-Turn for James, News Corp.’s deputy chief operating officer, and Rupert Murdoch, 80, who said last week Brooks had their support and would stay on. Murdoch yesterday backed his 38-year-old son and heir apparent, saying he had acted “as fast as he could, the moment he could.”
“It’s now about the Murdochs,” said Chris Bryant, a Labour lawmaker who called the July 6 emergency debate on the News of the World. “James Murdoch has got to answer questions about their hush money strategy. Did the board agree to it?”
The Daily Telegraph reports:
Rupert Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth has made a “furious” attack on Rebekah Brooks’s handling of the phone hacking scandal at News International, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.
The 42-year-old is said to have privately “railed” against the News International chief executive and former editor of the News of the World.
Miss Murdoch, who is set to be given a seat on the board of her father’s News Corp empire, told friends that Mrs Brooks had “fucked the company”.
Her remarks represent the first breach in the show of solidarity around Mrs Brooks by the Murdoch family.
The Guardian reports:
It is not yet clear exactly why Brooks’s resignation after 22 years at the company was accepted by the Murdochs, who had so far steadfastly stood by her during the crisis. This despite calls for her to go from the leaders of all the main political parties, including the prime minister, David Cameron, and the family of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, whose mobile phone was allegedly hacked by a private investigator working for the News of the World.
However, the last straw may have been Thursday night’s Newsnight interview with News International parent company News Corporation’s second largest shareholder, Saudi prince Al-Waleed bin Talal Alsaud, in which he said that if there was evidence of Brooks’s “explicit” involvement in the alleged illegal activity, “for sure she has to go, you bet she has to go”.
Nicholas Wapshott writes:
Many companies are made in the image of their boss, but none more so than News Corp. While Murdoch has been obliged to delegate at his TV network, at Fox News, and at the Fox movie division, Murdoch, a brilliant tabloid journalist, is the true editor-in-chief of his newspapers, as every editor who has worked for him knows – full disclosure: I was an executive at The Times, London, 1992-2004. As Andrew Neil, a dozen years The Sunday Times editor, wrote, “Anybody of importance reports direct to him. Normal management structures . . . do not matter.”
As an aggressive Australian alpha-male, Murdoch does not like editors who have their own ideas. In Britain, editors of The Times and The Sunday Times used to be big beasts of the political jungle, larger-than-life personalities, movers and shakers among the great and the good. Since the Murdoch takeover in 1980, faceless, unquestioning, anonymous beta editors have taken their place, and woe betide those who become well known.
“When you work for Rupert,” explained Neil, “you are a courtier.” He has “a weakness for courtiers who are fawning or obsequious.” Neil, who was “too inclined to become a public personality in my own right,” was eventually squeezed out. Michael Wolff, Murdoch’s biographer, tells the same story. “He tends to hire people who are grateful for the chance,” he wrote. “He never seems to be surrounded by the brightest bulbs, the ‘A’ team.”