James Murdoch resigns role at News International

Stephen Beard Feb 29, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: The ticker symbol of the day today is NEWS. Put it all together — it speaks for itself. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. — owner of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, among a whole bunch of other things — traded higher all day in New York, even as corporate events overseas looked quite grim.

Murdoch’s son James quit today as the executive chairman of News International — that’s the company’s British newspaper-publishing subsidiary. He may be the bosses kid, but he’s also the latest high profile News Corp executive to be swept up in the growing phone-hacking scandal.

From the European Desk in London, Marketplace’s Stephen Beard has the media business story of the day.

Stephen Beard: James Murdoch’s demise as Britain’s top press baron had been in the cards. A public enquiry has heard evidence that some of the newspapers he controlled routinely hacked into people’s cell phones, and corrupted the police.

Harriet Harman is deputy leader of the opposition Labour Party.

Harriet Harman: After the evidence this week of wholesale bribing of the police, James Murdoch had to go.

Yesterday there were even more toxic claims that one of his papers may have conspired to subvert a murder enquiry to protect a couple of private eyes that the newspaper employed. This afternoon, lawmakers like Chris Bryant were lining up to denounce the fallen executive.

Chris Bryant: I think that James Murdoch’s resignation from News International is long overdue. After all he’s brought some of the most important newspapers in this country into disrepute.

Rupert Murdoch, however, paid tribute to his son’s stewardship of the British newspapers today. And James Murdoch does remain a senior executive at News Corp — he’s focusing on the company’s much more profitable pay TV interests.

Tim Luckhurst, professor of journalism at Kent University, thinks this could be the beginning of the end of News Corp’s long love affair with newspapers.

Tim Luckhurst: I think there will be a great deal of pressure from amongst the independent shareholders at News Corporation to argue the case that the future of the group does not lie in the outdated medium of print.

But what role James Murdoch will play in the future of News Corp is far from clear. Once he was the heir apparent, but no longer — not after the resignations — says Michael Price Jones who speaks for a group of independent shareholders in the U.S.

Michael Price Jones: It shows, I think, U.S. investors, that this guy can’t be trusted by his dad to run these businesses.

Perhaps the biggest casualty of today’s resignation has been Rupert Murdoch’s dynastic ambitions. First it was to be his daughter Elizabeth who would succeed him, then his son Lachlan, and then James. The elderly tycoon is running out of heirs apparent, and perhaps finally facing the truth of what his own newspapers have frequently preached to the monarchy-supporting Brits: the best way to create a leader is not by the hereditary principle.

In London I’m Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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