29 Feb 2012

James Murdoch steps down from News International

Rupert Murdoch’s son resigns from News International, publisher of the Sun and the former News of the World – but it will make “no difference” to investigations into the paper, Channel 4 News hears.

James Murdoch steps down from News International (G)

The parent company, News Corporation, said in a statement that Mr Murdoch was leaving UK newspapers following his relocation to the company’s headquarters in New York, and would concentrate on television and international operations.

News International has come under intense scrutiny and criticism under James Murdoch’s leadership following the News of the World phone hacking scandal, which led to the Sunday tabloid’s closure last July, and the subsequent Leveson inquiry into press ethics, which is still ongoing.

The 39-year-old will continue as News Corporation’s deputy chief operating officer.

“I deeply appreciate the dedication of my many talented colleagues at News International who work tirelessly to inform the public and am confident about the tremendous momentum we have achieved under the leadership of my father and Tom Mockridge,” said James Murdoch in a statement.

He added that “new business practices” across all their newspaper titles, and the launch of The Sun on Sunday, put News International in “a strong position to build on its successes in the future”.

Resignation ‘long overdue’

His father Rupert Murdoch, News Corporation’s chairman and chief executive officer, said: “We are all grateful for James’ leadership at News International and across Europe and Asia, where he has made lasting contributions to the group’s strategy in paid digital content and its efforts to improve and enhance governance programmes.

“Now that he has moved to New York, James will continue to assume a variety of essential corporate leadership mandates, with particular focus on important pay-TV businesses and broader international operations.”

Labour MP Chris Bryant, who received a £30,000 settlement after having his phone hacked by the News of the World, said the resignation is “long overdue”.

“On his watch, we have seen the biggest corporate corruption scandal since 1720 and historic titles like the Sun have been brought into disrepute,” he said. “It is time he also left BSkyB. He is not a fit and proper person.”

‘For Neville’ revelations

James Murdoch originally told the Commons Culture Committee that he was not aware of phone-hacking at the News of the World, or the now notorious ‘For Neville’ email, which demonstrated that phone-hacking practices at the paper were not confined to one rogue reporter.

But Tom Crone, former legal chief at the News of the World publisher, News Group Newspapers, later told MPs he was “certain” that Mr Murdoch junior knew about the email.

In one sense, this is a symbolic move – it doesn’t make any difference to the investigations in the UK and the US. Douglas McCabe, media analyst

Yesterday, a former Scotland Yard detective accused the News of the World of putting her under surveillance in an attempt to “subvert” a murder investigation.

“He must be hugely relieved – he’s not someone who wants to spend his life worrying about practices in the Sun newspaper,” Douglas McCabe, media analyst at Enders Analysis told Channel 4 News.

The Commons Culture Committee’s final report is expected in the coming months. But James Murdoch is unlikely to escape accountability for his role in corrupt practices at the News of the World, despite the resignation, said Mr McCabe.

“In one sense, this is a symbolic move – it doesn’t make any difference to the investigations in the UK and the US,” he added.

Mr Murdoch’s resignation as chief executive follows his move in November last year to step down as director of News Group Newspapers – a division of News International which publishes the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times.

The Murdoch empire and UK newspapers

James Murdoch’s move away from UK newspapers to the US and to international television, will lead to speculation about the future role of the Murdoch empire in UK newspapers.

Rupert Murdoch is known to have a passion for print and has been involved in UK newspapers for over 40 years. But the same cannot be said for the next generation at News Corporation.

“Having Rupert there for the launch, it could hardly be a clearer message that the organisation takes News International very seriously. But on the other hand, if I worked at News International, the question in my mind would be – what happens in the future?” Mr McCabe told Channel 4 News.

“News Corporation’s chief operating officer, Chase Carey, makes it absolutely clear that his business is about screen based media – TV, film and online. Publishing is relatively minor within that overall hierarchy.”