James Murdoch

March 1, 2012 by staff 

James Murdoch, James Murdoch, the executive at the epicentre of the phone-hacking scandal at his father’s British newspapers, is stepping down as executive chairman of News Corp.’s U.K. newspaper arm.

News Corp. said in a statement Wednesday that James, the youngest son of 80-year-old media mogul Rupert Murdoch, has relinquished his position at News International to concentrate on expanding the company’s television business.

The 39-year-old James will still remain deputy chief operating officer of News Corp. but the move plucks the one-time heir apparent to his father’s global empire away from a firestorm over his credibility and his role in Britain’s expanding phone-hacking scandal.

News Corp. shares set a 52-week high in New York after the news broke, rising 1.6 per cent to $20.11 a share.

“James’ resignation was inevitable,” said Louis Ureneck, a journalism professor at Boston University. “He either condoned the hacking or was irresponsibly unaware. Neither is acceptable in a top executive of a media company.”

James Murdoch is still chairman of satellite broadcaster BSkyB, in which News Corp. holds a 39 per cent stake. The hacking scandal effectively killed News Corp.’s bid to take full control of the lucrative media company.

Revelations last summer that voicemail phone hacking went far beyond one rogue reporter at Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid have led to three parallel police investigations and an inquiry into Britain’s media ethics.

There has been evidence of widespread criminality, with journalists breaking into personal phones and computers, and illegally bribing police and other officials for information to fuel scoops.

The scandal brought down Murdoch’s 168-year-old News of the World tabloid and led to the arrests of more than a dozen journalists. Other top News International executives have resigned, but Rupert Murdoch has long insisted that James had his full support.

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