Sony’s Sir Howard Stringer makes fun of News Corp hacking scandal

On the same day that James Murdoch was fighting for his career at a parliamentary hearing on Thursday in London, Sony’s CEO Sir Howard Stringer was making fun of the whole situation an ocean away.

At a fancy breakfast hosted by News Corp’s Wall Street Journal in New York (where Sirius XM’s CEO Mel Karmazin was in the house), Stringer was the guest of honor.  WSJ editor Robert Thomson kicked off the Q&A session introducing Stringer, who later took the opportunity to show off one of Sony’s new products, a pair of binoculars that can be used to record video or pictures in 3D. That’s when Stringer seized the moment to turn the breakfast into an impromptu roast about News Corp’s woes.  Wielding the binoculars, he said:

“These are 3D binoculars. I venture it got good reviews. The Wall Street Journal will equip all their reporters with this. And if you think hacking the Royal Family is fun with phones, this is the ideal device. If you stay at the Hotel InterContinental Hyde Park, you can actually gaze into Buckingham Palace with these. I am telling this to (Thomson), wherever you are. Did you leave already? This is for you. This is for you. Video recording or stills.”

When I caught Stringer on the sidelines after the event, he admitted his stand-up routine “was a bit dangerous.”

News International loses top PR exec

News Corp exec James Murdoch

If we were at Rupert Murdoch’s daily UK tabloid The Sun we’d probably have a headline today that reads: Will the last person to leave News International please  turn off the lights?

Oh wait, The Sun already did that — but with Britain as its subject.

But we can’t help ourselves as News International executives drop like flies following the terrible phone voicemail hacking scandal which has rocked its parent company News Corp right to its core. Nearly 20 executives or journalists have either resigned, been fired or arrested since the hacking scandal escalated.

The Guardian today broke news that Alice Macandrew, the much liked, much respected senior communications executive at News International handed in her notice after falling out with News International top brass including James Murdoch about the handling of the communications strategy once the proverbial good stuff started to hit the fan this summer. We’ve since confirmed the news from our sources.

from Breakingviews:

James Murdoch stuck in limbo

By Chris Hughes
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The challenge to James Murdoch's credibility remains serious.

Two former senior staff have repeated assertions that News Corporation's European boss was made aware, in 2008, of evidence that phone hacking at his UK newspapers involved more than just a single rogue reporter. Murdoch has strongly rejected that claim. The truth of the matter remains unclear.

The dispute turns on what was discussed at a meeting between Murdoch and his two accusers -- a former editor of The News of The World newspaper and a senior legal executive -- more than three years ago. The meeting lasted only about 15 minutes. The outcome was that Murdoch approved a jumbo settlement to an alleged victim of phone hacking. The size of the financial settlement leads some to think that News Corp was buying silence. The key question, however, is whether Murdoch was told that phone hacking was more widespread than the company had previously maintained.

News Corp’s ethics were set at the top

By David Callahan
All opinions expressed are his own.

Rupert and James Murdoch have even more explaining to do after Tuesday’s allegations that top editors at the News of the World knew about the use of phone hacking by reporters. While the Murdochs have pleaded ignorance about the sordid doings of their underlings, a growing pile of evidence suggests that at least James was very much in the loop. That is not surprising. You don’t build a business empire – or even inherit one – by being a hands-off boss. What’s more, subordinates in major corporations don’t tend to commit serious crimes unless they think such behavior is okay with the boss.

Business scandals typically take a predictable path. Atrocious behavior comes to light and, within days, top executives are in front of klieg lights professing to be just as shocked as anyone else. But look, they say, we CEOs and chairmen can’t know everything that goes on around here. Then, over time, documents and witnesses emerge to show that top executives did know about illegal behavior. So it is that former CEOs like Jeff Skilling of Enron, Bernard Ebbers of WorldCom, Calisto Tanzi of Parmalat, and John Rigas of Adelphia are now serving long prison sentences for frauds that they initially denied any knowledge of. Other CEOs, such as subprime king Angelo Mozillo of Countrywide, have paid large penalties to settle suits by government authorities.

The phone hacking scandal is now well along this familiar trajectory. James Murdoch may have gotten to the top of the News Corp mainly because of nepotism, but he is no dummy and profiles have depicted him as a very competent executive. Yet we are supposed to believe that he signed off on a record payment to settle a hacking complaint without knowing the damning details? Or that, even though hacking was discussed openly at News of the World editorial meetings — until such explicit talk was banned by the editor — the top command at the News Corp had no idea what was going on? Right.

from Breakingviews:

James Murdoch’s perch gets shakier by the second

By Chris Hughes
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The phone hacking scandal at News Corp burst back to life on Tuesday. New evidence emerged suggesting that top executives were warned four years ago the illegal interception of voicemail messages went beyond one rogue reporter. James Murdoch, who returned to the company to run European and Asian operations in December 2007 after the matter appeared to have been resolved, continues to protest ignorance. But the sheer scale of what he didn't know raises fresh questions of how he handled the affair.

It wasn't until late 2010 that Murdoch acted on evidence that probes into hacking were insufficient. Fresh documents disclosed by British Parliament provide no smoking gun he knew the practice was more widespread at the now-defunct News of the World before then. Murdoch again rejected allegations by former managers that he was presented with such information in 2008 at a meeting to discuss an alleged victim's damages claim. Though it's still unclear what was said then, questions about Murdoch's conduct in signing off on the settlement and his response to later media allegations aren't going away.

Evidence of a News Corp coverup mounts

By Nicholas Wapshott
All opinions expressed are his own.

By this stage of the summer, Rupert Murdoch and his family would normally be relaxing on his yacht, The Rosehearty. But any hopes the magnate might have entertained that August would bring respite from the scandal that has engulfed his empire have been shattered by the release of two letters to the parliamentary committee investigating phone hacking by his papers. The excuse Murdoch gave to Parliament that he knew nothing of the wrongdoing is increasingly hard to credit. The blame for the routine invasion of privacy by his papers is now inching closer to Murdoch himself.

The first letter, from News of the World royal reporter Clive Goodman, who became the patsy for the affair, gives the lie to the suggestion to Parliament by Murdoch’s most trusted retainer Les Hinton that phone hacking was the work of a single rogue reporter. In the letter, Goodman lets slip that “the actions … were carried out with the full knowledge and support” of some of the paper’s other journalists and that “other members of staff were carrying out the same illegal procedures.” The names of those others have been redacted for now, at the request of Scotland Yard, for fear of jeopardizing a prosecution.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s judgment is also called into question by the letter. The socially remote Cameron felt he could not connect with humdrum voters and hired Andy Coulson, top editor at the News of the World when the hacking took place, to explain his government’s policies in language the ordinary person could understand. Cameron says he hired the tainted Coulson because Coulson denied knowing of the illegality going on under his nose. But Goodman reports that hacking “was widely discussed in the daily editorial conference, until explicit reference to it was banned by the Editor [Coulson].” The “smoking gun” letter makes Cameron look naïve and gullible for being taken in so easily.

Murdoch vs. parliament: No curtain call yet

Near the end of his dramatic testimony, at the end of what he called his most humbling day, a prankster tried to tag Rupert Murdoch with a pie in the face. He missed.

It may be the defining moment in the whole sordid ordeal of the cell phone hacking scandal which has beset News Corp: try as many MPs might have, it would appear at first blush that Murdoch father and son delivered the finessed performance of contrition, cooperation and combativeness that could change the tempo of the outcry against the media empire, now under fire on two continents — and possibly a third.

Murdoch’s answers will be picked apart for days — why was this the most humbling day of his career, and not his life? — but for the sake of appearances, which matter most because they will frame the meme, Rupert and James Murdoch did themselves every possible favor in an arena that could have resulted in unmitigated disaster.

from Breakingviews:

James Murdoch shouldn’t be kicked out of BSkyB

By Hugo Dixon
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

James Murdoch shouldn’t be kicked out of BSkyB. Some observers want to use the Murdoch clan’s troubles at News International, their UK newspapers company, to run them out of town completely. But BSkyB, the pay-television group, is a separate business. And Murdoch Jr has done a good job first as its chief executive and now as its chairman.

Admittedly, Murdoch Jr hasn’t covered himself in glory in handling the alleged phone hacking and police bribery scandal. As well as being chairman of BSkyB, he has indirect responsibility at News Corp for the UK newspaper arm. He was slow to grip the problems -- not least by allowing Rebekah Brooks, who ran the papers and reported to him, to stay in her position for too long. There are now multiple probes into the saga which could embroil him further. But nothing has yet come out which should disqualify him from his BSkyB role.

Live Coverage: News Corp phone hack scandal

This liveblog has expired, updates past 10am on July 20th, 2011 can be found here. is liveblogging House of Commons debate

Factbox on today’s committee hearings:

Timeline of events in the hacking scandal so far:
Who’s who in the hacking scandal:

Hearing highlights:
Analysts views:

July 20, 2011

Latest (10am ET)

Liveblogging the House of Commons debate : Reuters

Special report - Murdoch affair spotlights UK’s dirty detectives : Reuters

Murdoch daughter disses dad

Courtesy of Richard Siklos, Fortune’s media writer extraordinaire, who just posted this on the website on Tuesday:

“In the weeks that Rupert Murdoch was locked in unsuccessful negotiations to keep his longtime No. 2 at News Corp., the media baron also had to accept his daughter Elisabeth’s decision to turn down a spot on the company’s board, sources told Fortune.”

That’s exciting, from a soap-opera-meets-financial-news angle, because Murdoch is letting longtime right-hand man Peter Chernin leave the company, in part because the media baron has a sense of familial duty. That is to say, many people say he wants his children to take over the company. The most likely choice is his son James, 36, who is active in the company’s UK and Asian operations. Having said that, Elisabeth is no slouch in the media department.