News Corp

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

A deal between McGraw-Hill and CME Group to bring together the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 index would be a good moment to consider the irrelevance of the former and the significance of the latter.

What does the Dow have going for it? It’s arguably the highest profile stock market benchmark in the world – granted a daily airing by media worldwide. Its composition is stable (the last change was more than two years ago, when Travelers replaced Citigroup, and Cisco replaced General Motors). Its 30 component stocks are highly liquid, which makes the average quick to calculate. It is old. Very old: it was conjured up by Charles Dow in 1896, with a basket of railroads, steel companies and textile mills. 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.

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Andrew Hill

Plenty of critics will say that Rupert Murdoch’s full-page apology for the “serious wrongdoing” caused by the News of the World in the British phone-hacking scandal comes too late. Likewise, the resignation on Friday of former editor Rebekah Brooks as chief executive of News International, News Corp’s UK subsidiary, looks tardy.

But News Corp should be more concerned about whether the 6m readers of the UK papers where Mr Murdoch’s letter will appear can trust the sender, given the winding route he took before delivering it. Read more

Andrew Hill

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat” (Sun Tzu)

News Corporation’s withdrawal of its bid for British Sky Broadcasting is the latest in a series of increasingly desperate tactical moves by Rupert Murdoch and his chieftains to limit the consequences of the UK phone-hacking scandalRead 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

Andrew Hill

When advertisers put pressure on news organisations, it’s often a sign press freedom is threatened. From South Africa to Hong Kong, public opinion puts companies or governments that use their commercial clout to protest against editorial policy on the side of the bad guys.

It’s symptomatic of the sorry state of UK news media that in the widening scandal over phone-hacking, the reverse is true. Read more