News Corp’s senior management is starting to think about what the company might do if Deputy COO James Murdoch stepped aside, sources inside and close to the global media empire. With Rupert Murdoch’s son under increasing pressure from the phone-hacking scandal, News Corp execs want to be prepared if he wants to “take a breather,” one News Corp. source told Reuters.
“The company is still trying to operate as if James isn’t going anywhere,” said another high-ranking insider. “But everyone is thinking about what will happen if he has to step aside.”
The News Corp. investigation got more complicated 8/16 from written evidence submitted to the U.K. Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee suggesting voice-mail hacking was widely discussed at its News of the World tabloid. One letter accuses former News of the World editor Andy Coulson and senior editors of being in full knowledge of phone hacking as far back as 2006. Coulson later resigned and then became U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s top communications adviser. Coulson resigned from that post earlier this year.
Other letters showed several former execs contradicting recent testimony by James Murdoch. The Committee released written statements from Murdoch, several former top executives and a law firm that was retained by News Corp.’s U.K. newspaper division News International.
The Committee said on 8/16 that the written evidence would now lead to a new round of hearings examining the matter. James Murdoch is likely to be recalled to Parliament to explain what he knew about the phone-hacking scandal at News of the World.
However, through a representative, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch and News Corp senior management told Reuters it was “absolutely not true” the company was thinking about the possibility that James may step aside. News Corp insists that James Murdoch will retain his current position and is still the front runner to succeed his father in the long term.
If James was pressured into leaving News Corp, two of the sources said the departure would not likely be permanent.
“Even if he did step out of the spotlight for a while, that wouldn’t necessarily mean he wouldn’t come back when things are quieter,” said another source who asked not to be named because of a relationship with the family…I’m waiting for the moment when he says, ‘What the hell am I doing here, I need a breather.'”
A third source close to the Murdoch family added, “There needs to be some kind of separation for James from this issue before he can run the company more broadly.”
Plans are still in place for James to relocate to New York early next year.