James Murdoch should take a break from News Corp

July 12, 2011

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.


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I’m really tired of CEO’s getting kit glove treatment when they do bad things. Murdoch is a hands-on CEO. It is virtually impossible for him to have not known how his news gatherers were able to find out things that no one else could find out.

Murdoch should be investigated and charged with every crime for which he is culpable, then he should be treated like any other common criminal.

Posted by breezinthru | Report as abusive

He will always be a Daddy’s boy.

Posted by Intriped | Report as abusive

Ms. Brooks has proven how ruthless she is by the scandalous methods used by her paper.

She is probably being protected because she could bring down junior with her, if she were sacrificed, and possibly senior.

The UK newspapers have turned into toxic assets for News Corp., and so have the Murdocks.

Posted by Verdae | Report as abusive

The sinister history of Rupert Murdoch goes back to Adelaide 1952/3 when he inheirited a half share in his father’s 2 newspapers. He had to fight like a wild dingo to hold on to the business. This taught him a lesson.Beat the opposition at any cost and by any method available. Also the public don’t want sophisticated journalism, they want crap with sugar on it. He came to the UK in 1969, bought the NoTW and gave the public what they wanted…in spades. Murdoch Jr is just another pawn in the game. Maybe now, after 42 years vulgarising and deceiving the British public, corrupting institutions like the police and Westminister….the game is up.

Posted by rodlarge | Report as abusive

What I don’t like about this story is that about two months ago we were warned about liberals targeting the heads of conservative news organizations. So here it is. Liberals trying to take out the handful of US conservative media chiefs in preparation to the 2012 election.

Posted by billypeaches | Report as abusive

unlike the other adult Murdoch kids, James Murdoch seems to be the one who most wishes to inherit Rupert’s position. Lachlan left to go back to Australia to run his own hedge fund and yes, it’s true that Elisabeth is back in the fold but I don’t believe she’s ever held a senior management position before she left to start Shine.

Posted by GregHao | Report as abusive