The Fall of the House of Murdoch?
James Murdoch, the younger son of media baron Rupert Murdoch, has stepped fown from his post as chair of BSkyB Media, the British satellite company that is partly owned by the Murdoch family. In a statement issued Tuesday, BSkyB said that the younger Murdoch had resigned to “shield” the company from the phone hacking scandal that has embroiled him and his father’s News Corporation since July of 2011. Last summer, reports surfaced that staff from News Corps.’s News of the World tabloid had hacked into the voice mail of a murdered 13-year-old school girl, Milly Dowler, and deleted messages, leading her family to think that she might still be alive. These revelations led to the shuttering of NoW, an ongoing police investigation into hacking and corruption at NoW and the arrest of several present and former NoW editors and employees.
40 percent of BSkyB’s stock is owned by News Corp. and the company was making a $12 billion bid to gain complete control of the broadcaster when the hacking scandal broke out last July. Many had speculated then about whether James Murdoch would stay on as chairman of BSkyB, notes the New York Times.
James Murdoch remains the deputy chief operating officer of News Corp. and is now working from the company’s headquarters in New York. His resignation from the leadership position of BSkyB follows a number of reports about how much he did or did not know about how extensive the practice of phone hacking was at NoW, when he, as executive chairman of News International, the British newspaper wing of News Corp., had authorized a very large settlement of more than £450,000 ($725,000) and legal fees exceeding $322,000 to Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association. Murdoch has been accused of being either simply incompetent in his leadership capacity or outright deceptive about what he truly knew about phone hacking at NoW.
At the end of February, James Murdoch had resigned as executive chairman of News International. He has also resigned from the board of the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline and the auction house Sotheby’s.
With News Corp. facing more turmoil after James Murdoch’s resignation, the company’s shareholders are calling for Rupert Murdoch himself to quit as chair of his company. Shareholders remain concerned about the ongoing problems and possibility of fresh scandals. Michael Wolff, author of the Murdoch biography The Man Who Owns The News, says that there is now renewed pressure on James Murdoch to resign from News Corp. As Wolff comments in the Guardian about James Murdoch:
“He hasn’t shown much inclination to go. James is worried the company will sell him out. What’s going on now is that James wants to stay out of jail.”
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