James Murdoch should take a break from News Corp
By Chris Hughes
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
James Murdoch should stage his own tactical retreat and resign from News Corporation. The heir apparent to his father Rupert’s media empire has lost authority. That may not be entirely his fault. Underlings seem to have let him down, and his father has undermined him by backing Rebekah Brooks, the head of the group’s scandal-ridden UK newspapers, who reports to James. The best way for Murdoch jnr to regain control of his own destiny is to leave.
Murdoch inherited a hospital pass when he took charge of News Corporation’s European and Asian businesses in December 2007. It seemed that the phone-hacking scandal had been put to bed since a News of the World reporter and a private investigator had already been sent to jail. An internal inquiry had concluded no further action was needed and a law firm had seemingly endorsed that finding.
We now know Murdoch was wrong to rely on that. On multiple occasions over the next three years, News International (the UK newspaper business) brushed aside suggestions that the rot went deeper. Murdoch even agreed to pay hush money to somebody who complained of hacking and the company gave inaccurate information to a parliamentary inquiry. He now says he wasn’t in full possession of the facts at the time. But, at the very least, he seems to have failed to give adequate attention to the affair and grab it by the scruff of the neck.
Even now, Murdoch jnr doesn’t seem in control. One of the most obvious ways of restoring confidence would be to suspend Brooks — who was editor of the News of World when some of the worst alleged practices took place and who is now in charge of all the UK newspapers — until the police investigation is over.
It still isn’t clear why Murdoch hasn’t done a proper job. But every day that goes by, his personal reputation gets tarnished. He would be doing himself a favor by resigning. Who knows: if he then proved himself as an independent media entrepreneur, he might return to News Corp having proved himself, rather than as Daddy’s boy.