James Murdoch

Andrew Hill

My first reaction to the latest news of changes at the top of the Murdoch empire was: did the shrink get involved?

Succession planning at family businesses is often full of unlikely twists and shrieking. After the phone-hacking scandal broke over Rupert Murdoch’s UK newspapers in 2011, Vanity Fair claimed that the Murdoch siblings had discussed succession with a “family counsellor”, partly in an attempt to smooth the process. Read more >>

Andrew Hill

Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch

It will be a shame if bitter and partisan debate over whether Rupert Murdoch is “a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company” obscures the more important conclusion of the UK parliament’s culture, media and sport committee on phone-hacking: that he and his son James were wilfully blind to what was going on.

Whether BSkyB, controlled by the Murdoch-owned News Corp, is a “fit and proper” owner of a broadcasting licence is a question for Ofcom, the regulator, which has now entered an “evidence-gathering” phase of its probe.

But as even the dissenting members of the committee said on Tuesday, if the “fit person” line had been omitted from the report, they would have voted unanimously to back it, including the charge that the Murdochs oversaw a culture of wilful blindness. Read more >>

John Gapper

James Murdoch faces tough questioning at the Leveson Inquiry. Getty Images

James Murdoch faces tough questioning at the Leveson Inquiry. Getty Images

The Leveson inquiry has finally arrived at the heart of an issue that has long bedevilled the UK media and political establishment – do newspaper proprietors get favourable treatment in business in return for supporting politicians?

James Murdoch, now the deputy chief operating officer of News Corporation, insisted angrily that he expected no more from politicians reviewing News Corp’s bid for the rest of the equity in British Sky Broadcasting in 2010 than to play it straight down the line:

In response to a suggestion from Robert Jay, counsel to the inquiry, that News Corp had courted Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary, to get the bid through, he replied:

“That is absolutely not the case. Any question of support from a newspaper for one individual politician or another would never be linked to a commercial transaction… I simply wouldn’t do business in that way.”

 Read more >>

By Ben Fenton

In an extended Vanity Fair piece that people who know the Murdoch family say is “horrifying in its level of detail” and “strikingly accurate in most respects”, Sarah Ellison has laid out how the phone hacking scandal at one of News Corp’s UK newspapers derailed dynastic plans for the media group.

One element of a long history – the claim that the four eldest Murdoch siblings had discussed the “succession” to their father as chairman and CEO with a “family counsellor” or psychologist – stood out, both for being hard to picture and for what it says about how little other shareholders views appear to enter into the Murdoch family considerations on succession planning. (Rupert Murdoch and the elder four of his six children control 38 per cent of voting shares, but own only 12 per cent of the total equity). Read more >>

Andrew Hill

At July’s parliamentary hearings into phone-hacking at the News of the World, Liberal Democrat MP Adrian Sanders wound up his line of questioning by asking James Murdoch if he was “familiar with the term ‘wilful blindness’”.

Mr Murdoch, now deputy chief operating officer at News Corp and head of its international business, asked Mr Sanders to elaborate, which he did:

It is a term that came up in the Enron scandal. Wilful blindness is a legal term. It states that if there is knowledge that you could have had and should have had, but chose not to have, you are still responsible.

 Read more >>

John Gapper

The News International scandal, which today led Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary, to refer Rupert Murdoch’s bid to acquire complete control of British Sky Broadcasting, throws the entire shape of his UK operations into doubt.

Might the ultimate effect be that News Corporation disposes of its troublesome UK print operations to focus on its far bigger and more profitable entertainment assets in the US and elsewhere in the world?

That possibility, raised by Andrew Hill last week, would have seemed implausible even a week ago. Rupert Murdoch is an inky-fingered newspaperman who loves papers of every stripe and infuriated investors by paying $5bn for Dow Jones four years ago. Events are, however, moving very fast. Read more >>

John Gapper

James Murdoch attended the same event as Mr Milner and tweaked the tails of technology figures for their belief in distributing news and other “content” free online.

“If you are going to monetise something, the first rule is you should probably not give it away for free . . . Our view is that we are happy to invest more in a product, and price it fairly, and accept the fact that not everyone will consume it.” Read more >>

John Gapper

News Corporation’s attempt to take full ownership of British Sky Broadcasting will have an interesting impact on the role of James Murdoch, Rupert’s younger son and his heir apparent.

The deal would remove some of James’ independence, since as chairman of BSkyB as well as the head of News Corp’s European and Asian businesses, he has hitherto had his own empire. Read more >>