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James Murdoch steps away from UK heat

Resigns as Executive Chairman of News International; shifts base to New York to focus on expanding News Corp’s international TV businesses

BestMediaInfo Bureau | Delhi | March 1, 2012

Caught in a web of controversy, James Murdoch, 39, on Wednesday cut his ties with British newspapers and the UK by stepping down as Executive Chairman of News International. In the eye of the storm for months ever since the relentless revelations over the ‘News of the World’ phone hacking scandal, which saw him being described as a 'mafia boss', the company has announced he will focus on expanding his father, Rupert Murdoch’s international TV businesses and will be based in New York.

News International is currently facing three criminal investigations over illegal reporting tactics at its newspapers in the UK, including the now closed tabloid ‘The News of the World’ and its sister paper, ‘The Sun’. A key issue in the public drama surrounding the scandal has been Murdoch Junior’s handling of the affair despite being aware of the seriousness of the charges.

The first casualty, if one may call it so, was the flame-haired Queen of Fleet Street, Rebecca Brooks, who quit as CEO of News International in July 2011 soon after the telephone hacking scandal hit headlines. A person, who had started life as a secretary, had 22 years later ended up as the right-hand woman of the most powerful media baron in the world. That it took 12 days of relentless pressure from British Parliament before she was finally let go from New International was seen as an indication of how powerful and close Brooks was in the Rupert Murdoch family.

In India, News Corp owns the country’s largest television network, Star India, through its Hong Kong parent. James Murdoch was also heading the Star Group but which responsibility too he has now given up. The Murdochs also have a foothold in the news television business in India, through a joint venture with the Kolkata-headquartered ABP Group. The JV, in which Star is a minority shareholder, owns MCCS which runs Star News in Hindi and Star Ananda in Bengali.

News Corporation announced on Wednesday (evening India time), that following his relocation to New York, James Murdoch, Deputy Chief Operating Officer, has relinquished his position as Executive Chairman of News International, its UK publishing unit. Tom Mockridge, Chief Executive Officer of News International, will continue in his post and will report to News Corporation President and COO Chase Carey.

"We are all grateful for James' leadership at News International and across Europe and Asia, where he has made lasting contributions to the group's strategy in paid digital content and its efforts to improve and enhance governance programmes," said Rupert Murdoch, 80, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, News Corporation. "He has demonstrated leadership and continues to create great value at Star TV, Sky Deutschland, Sky Italia, and BSkyB. Now that he has moved to New York, James will continue to assume a variety of essential corporate leadership mandates, with particular focus on important pay-TV businesses and broader international operations."

"I deeply appreciate the dedication of my many talented colleagues at News International who work tirelessly to inform the public and am confident about the tremendous momentum we have achieved under the leadership of my father and Tom Mockridge," said James Murdoch. "With the successful launch of ‘The Sun on Sunday’ and new business practices in place across all titles, News International is now in a strong position to build on its successes in the future. As Deputy Chief Operating Officer, I look forward to expanding my commitment to News Corporation's international television businesses and other key initiatives across the company."

News Corporation had total assets as of December 31, 2011 of approximately $60 billion and total annual revenues of approximately $34 billion. News Corporation is a diversified global media company with operations in six industry segments: cable network programming; filmed entertainment; television; direct broadcast satellite television; publishing; and other. The activities of News Corporation are conducted principally in the USA, Continental Europe, the UK, Australia, Asia and Latin America.

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