Behind Wendi Deng’s billion-dollar spike

By Eric Ellis
The opinions expressed are his own.

Tiger wife or Trophy wife? Slam-down Sister or caring partner doing a Tammy Wynette? New York socialite or about-to-be global media mogul?

When Wendi Deng soared on Tuesday, 42 and pretty-in-pink, left across our TV screens to clobber the idiot cream-pieing her struggling octogenarian billionaire husband, my first thought was of Messrs Wang Chongsheng and Xie Qidong, two hale and delightful old men retired in the central Chinese city of Xuzhou, where Wendi grew up as Deng Weng Ge, or “Cultural Revolution Deng” as was a parent’s political imperative of those dark Maoist days.

Wendi Deng's middle school volleyball team in Xuzhou, China, early 1980s. She is in the middle of the back row.

Mr Wang was Wendi’s volleyball coach at Xuzhou’s No 1 Middle School, and Mr Qie her academic supervisor. Wang taught her volleyball, and rather too well for the scholarly Qie’s taste. Both men can be seen in this slideshow.) “She lagged behind other students because of playing volleyball,” he complained when I met him in early 2007. Xie persuaded Wendi to give up volleyball and focus on university entry exams. “Because she had good health, she could stay very late at night to make up her study,” he says. “She has a struggling spirit and made big progress. I also would say she is smart.” Giving succour to those of us who wonder what use high school ever is for later life, it seems that Wendi at least retained Wang’s ability to execute an Olympic medal-winning spike over the net.

It may well be a spike worth billions. Wendi has never been the most favorite member of the Murdoch family among the clan itself since Rupert, double her age, took her as his third wife in 1999. Indeed, after getting over the shock that their Dad had left their sainted mother Anna after 32 years, Elisabeth, Lachlan and James Murdoch were relieved to read, shortly after he married Wendi, Murdoch’s remarks to an interviewer that Wendi’s job was “as a home decorator,” that she was not “some business genius about to take over News.”

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 UK News:

Constitution in crisis as tyrannical journalists devour cowed politicians

A sordid tale of excess and brutality, of a world dominated by journalists with their ears to the keyhole, of tyrannical newspapers wielding remarkable power and of a political class not only cowed, but consumed, by that power.

Sound familiar? With two of Britain's most senior policemen out of a job, the prime minister under pressure for his serenading of News Corp and one of the world's most powerful press barons, in the form of Rupert Murdoch, summoned to testify to parliament, it would be one way of describing the current state of affairs.

In fact, it is how Irish writer and wit Oscar Wilde saw the state of Britain 120 years ago.

The Journal’s twisted self-defense

By Gregg Easterbrook
The views expressed are his own.

Today’s Wall Street Journal in its lead editorial declares Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation all but saints walking on Earth, claiming “politicians and competitors are using the phone-hacking years ago at a British corner of News Corporation to assail the Journal and perhaps injure press freedom.”

If patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels, press freedom is the last refuge of tabloid gutter-dwellers. But note two corruptions in that single sentence of the Journal’s embarrassing editorial.

First, casually the Journal acknowledges the scandal’s initial charge is true, referring to “the phone-hacking years ago at a British corner of News Corp.” Just last week, Murdoch was vehemently saying in the Journal’s pages that some of the accusations were “total lies.”

The best questions to ask Murdoch

By Nicholas Wapshott
The opinions expressed are his own.

The avalanche of information gushing out of London about the criminal practices passed off as journalism at Rupert Murdoch’s British papers will make it almost impossible for members of the House of Commons media committee to find out this week exactly what went wrong with the company’s corporate culture. That will have to wait for the full judicial inquiry and the rekindled police investigation; even then the whole truth may not come out. Commons committees are not made up of criminal lawyers. Like Congressional committees, they are large and unwieldy, and their members are too often tempted to grandstand for the cameras than oblige witnesses to provide truthful answers. But there is one line of questioning that may elicit some valuable evidence about how far up News Corp. knowledge of the malfeasance went.

The policeman who led the original 2007 investigation into hacking at News International was Andy Hayman, who was in charge of counter-terrorism for Scotland Yard. The probe went nowhere. News executives obstructed the main investigator, Peter Clarke, who complained to MPs last week that “if at any time News International had offered some meaningful cooperation instead of lies, we would not be here today.” At the time, Mr. Hayman enjoyed dinner with some of the obfuscating Murdoch senior executives, but instead of demanding that they provide answers or face the consequences, according to his account, he did not even mention the investigation. Then, instead of redoubling his efforts, Mr. Hayman called off the investigation, despite the 3,870 victims we now know to have been hacked.

Mr. Hayman did not stay much longer at the Yard. He was accused of fiddling his expenses and charging taxpayers for dinners costing $500. Worse, he was accused of an inappropriate relationship with a member of the independent press complaints commission, the body charged with investigating his misleading remarks to the press about the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian citizen who was shot dead by police in London in the mistaken belief he was an al-Qaeda terrorist. Mr. Hayman also fell out with the head of the Metropolitan Police, adding to his job insecurity.

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:
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July 20, 2011

Latest (10am ET)

Liveblogging the House of Commons debate : Reuters

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

Dow Jones Hinton’s resignation letters

Memo to employees

Dear all,

Many of you will be aware by now that I resigned today from Dow Jones and News Corp. I attach below my resignation letter to Rupert Murdoch.

It is a deeply, deeply sad day for me.

I want you all to know the pride and pleasure I have taken working at Dow Jones for the past three-and-a-half years. I have never been with better, more dedicated people, or had more fun in a job.

News Corp under Rupert’s brilliant leadership has proved a fitting parent of Dow Jones, allowing us to invest and expand as other media companies slashed costs.  This support enabled us together to strengthen the company during a brutal economic downturn, developing fine new products – not to mention one of the world’s great newspapers led by one of the world’s great editors, my dear friend and colleague Robert Thomson.

from Breakingviews:

Tip for the Murdochs: don’t be yourselves

By Chris Hughes

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

Don’t be yourselves. That’s probably the best tip for Rupert and James Murdoch as they prepare to face UK lawmakers over the phone hacking scandal engulfing the UK newspaper arm of News Corporation.

Rupert is used to pushing people around. James argues with a passion when challenged. These are great skills in business, but will be handicaps in an event that is part investigation, part show trial.

British papers may be Murdoch’s next sacrificial lamb

By Nicholas Wapshott
The opinions expressed are his own.

Soon after Rupert Murdoch moved to Beverly Hills in 1986 to tinker with his new toy, Twentieth Century Fox, his wife at the time, Anna, was asked how she was enjoying Los Angeles. “Well, it’s very different when you don’t own the paper,” she said. In Sydney, London, and New York, Mrs. Murdoch was used to “A” list parties, tables in restaurants at short notice, the best seats for sold out shows. But wives of movie moguls, she fast discovered, were something less than the wife of someone who bought ink by the gallon.

Mr. Murdoch has his own reasons for “owning the paper.” As the scandal that is engulfing his company’s UK arm, News International, is exposing for all to see, he has had little compunction about marshaling his papers to further his interests. Although he is a free-market conservative, he is not concerned so much with party politics as ensuring that government regulations do not interfere with his business ambitions. In Britain in the last thirty years, those who aspired to power have had first to make their peace with him. Those, like Labour’s Tony Blair, who fell in with his plans, performing as the star turn at a management retreat on Hayman Island, Australia, were blessed with benign coverage. Conservatives like John Major, whom he disliked, were subject to ad hominem assaults in his papers.

Now that News Corp’s corporate culture has been shown to have failed to prevent voicemail hacking and police bribery in London, the question being asked on both sides of the Atlantic is, how far did the illegality extend? Hacking at the News of the World was, it seems, matched by sharp practice at The Sun and The Sunday Times. Murdoch’s world turned out to be little more than a free market version of “The Lives of Others.”

How I misread News Corp’s taxes

By David Cay Johnston. The opinions expressed are his own.

Readers, I apologize. The premise of my debut column for Reuters, on News Corp’s taxes, was wrong, 100 percent dead wrong.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp did not get a $4.8 billion tax refund for the past four years, as I reported. Instead, it paid that much in cash for corporate income taxes for the years 2007 through 2010 while earning pre-tax profits of $10.4 billion.

For the first time in my 45-year-old career I am writing a skinback. That is what journalists call a retraction of the premise of a piece, as in peeling back your skin and feeling the pain. I will do all I can to make sure everyone who has read or heard secondary reports based on my column also learns the facts and would appreciate the help of readers in that cause.