James Murdoch resigns in phone hacking scandal

Rupert Murdoch and phone, cartoon

From the British correspondent of the Los Angeles Times in the USA:

James Murdoch resigns as BSkyB chairman

April 3, 2012 | 6:49 am

REPORTING FROM LONDON — James Murdoch said Tuesday he is stepping down as chairman of the satellite TV network BSkyB amid Britain’s ongoing phone-hacking scandal and accusations that newspapers under his leadership broke the law and tried to cover it up.

In a letter to other members of the BSkyB board, Murdoch indicated he had decided to resign because of the constant stream of negative publicity surrounding News Corp., whose British arm, News International, is under investigation in the hacking scandal.

“As attention continues to be paid to past events at News International, I am determined that the interests of BSkyB should not be undermined by matters outside the scope of this company,” Murdoch wrote. “I am aware that my role as chairman could become a lightning rod for BSkyB and I believe that my resignation will help to ensure that there is no false conflation with events at a separate organization.”

News Corp. owns about 39% of BSkyB and has tried to win overall control of the TV service. But it was forced to shelve its bid last summer after the phone-hacking scandal exploded in the public consciousness and prompted a backlash against the company.

The head of News Corp., media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, summarily closed down the weekly tabloid News of the World last July after it was revealed that the paper routinely hacked into the cellphones of celebrities, politicians and even murder victims.

Since then, more than a dozen journalists and executives with News International have been arrested and questioned by Scotland Yard in its wide-ranging probe into allegations of phone hacking and bribery. Police are also investigating whether News International engaged in a coverup of criminal activity at News of the World and its sister tabloid, the Sun.

James Murdoch, who served as chairman of News International until stepping down from that post in February, has consistently denied any knowledge of widespread phone hacking at the papers then under his command. He insists he was led to believe that phone hacking was confined to one “rogue reporter” at the News of the World who was convicted and jailed for his offense.

But many British lawmakers, before whom the younger Murdoch has been called to appear for questioning more than once, have been highly critical of his leadership and skeptical of his denials.

BSkyB said he would be replaced by Nicholas Ferguson, currently the company’s deputy chairman.

Chris Bryant, a member of Parliament from the opposition Labor Party, welcomed the report of Murdoch’s decision to step down. Bryant has been outspoken in his criticism of Rupert Murdoch’s news empire in Britain, which he says has exercised undue influence over British politicians and harassed lawmakers like him who object to it.

“I hope that the British political class … will never kowtow to any one media mogul, will never allow one body to have so much of the newspapers and the broadcasting in one pair of hands, because in the end I think that leads to terrible hubris,” Bryant told the BBC.

— Henry Chu

See also here. And here. And here.

The Roots Of An Empire: Rupert Murdoch’s Australia: here.

James Murdoch’s downfall

Rupert Murdoch cartoon

After the downfall of Rupert Murdoch‘s underling Rebekah Brooks, now the downfall of Murdoch the Son. It is to be hoped that the complete downfall of Murdoch the Father is not far away.

By Jack Mirkinson in the USA:

James Murdoch Steps Down As Executive Chairman Of News International

The Huffington Post

02/29/12 09:15 AM ET

James Murdoch has stepped down as executive chairman of News International, the British arm of News Corp., the company announced Wednesday. Murdoch, who was once seen as the heir apparent to his father Rupert at the head of News Corp., has now lost a key position within the company.

News Corp. cast the move as stemming from James’ recent relocation to New York from London, and Rupert Murdoch said his son would “continue to assume a variety of essential corporate leadership mandates.” He will also remain as the deputy COO of News Corp. But the reshuffling will be widely seen as a reflection of James’ deeply diminished stature following wave after wave of damaging allegations about his complicity in News Corp.’s still-simmering phone hacking scandal.

James has long denied having any knowledge of the widespread nature of phone hacking within the News of the World tabloid. But a series of testimonies and released documents have put him ever-closer to a crucial 2008 meeting in which the former editor and legal director of the paper have sworn he was informed that criminality had been out of control within the organization. James was even sent a memo detailing the extent of phone hacking within the NOTW, but has stated he did not scroll down enough on his BlackBerry to read it.

As the allegations mounted against him, James’ stock within News Corp. plummeted. Whereas it had been assumed that he was the natural successor to his father, Rupert Murdoch began stressing the power and influence of his COO, Chase Carey. Independent shareholders also voted, by a large margin, to oust him from the News Corp. board.

James’ departure leaves News International — once the key building block in Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, and still a wing of his company he treasures deeply — without any member of the Murdoch family involved on its masthead. It also maintains News International’s status as the most troubled, and trouble-making, part of News Corp. In the last year, the subsidiary has become a gloomy focal point for the company, even as overall News Corp. revenues have hummed along.

Moreover, the misery shows no signs of stopping; just this week, dramatic new details about the levels of bribery at Murdoch’s Sun newspaper have rocked the British media.

See also here. And here.

Metropolitan Police officers arrested Sun defence editor Virginia Wheeler today in their Operation Elveden probe into bungs to coppers from journalists. Ms Wheeler, 32, was quizzed at a south London police station about evidence handed over by News International’s standards committee: here.

Cameron tries to close stable door after Rebekah Brooks horse story has bolted: here.

Rebekah Brooks borrowed her Scotland Yard horse after discussing
it over lunch with Britain’s top officer, an inquiry heard today. Former commissioner Lord Blair said he had been dining with the ex-News International chief executive before she called the force’s media chief to request the loan: here.

The Corporate Media Crisis: Everything Old Is New Again: here.

Scandals may bring down James Murdoch

This video is called Documents Cast New Doubt on Murdoch’s Denial.

From the Huffington Post in the USA:

News Corp. executives are contemplating a future without James Murdoch, Reuters reports.

Murdoch had long been seen as the natural successor to his father, Rupert. But he has been deeply wounded by the phone hacking scandal and, according to Peter Lauria, senior executives are beginning to think about what might happen if he wants to “step aside.”

Murdoch’s Lawyers Turn on Him: here.

New evidence in UK phone hacking scandal implicates the Murdochs: here.

Kerry Katona claims she was phone-hacking victim: here.