James Murdoch has stepped down as executive chairman of News International, the British arm of News Corp., the company announced Wednesday. Murdoch, who was once seen as the heir apparent to his father Rupert at the head of News Corp., has now lost a key position within the company.
News Corp. cast the move as stemming from Murdoch's recent relocation to New York from London, and Rupert Murdoch said his son would "continue to assume a variety of essential corporate leadership mandates." He will also remain as the deputy COO of News Corp. But the reshuffling will be widely seen as a reflection of James Murdoch's deeply diminished stature following wave after wave of damaging allegations about his complicity in News Corp.'s still-simmering phone hacking scandal.
Murdoch has long denied having any knowledge of the widespread nature of phone hacking within the News of the World tabloid. But a series of testimonies and released documents have put him ever-closer to a crucial 2008 meeting in which the former editor and legal director of the paper have sworn he was informed that criminality had been out of control within the organization. Murdoch was even sent a memo detailing the extent of phone hacking within the NOTW, but has stated he did not scroll down enough on his BlackBerry to read it.
The full statement from News Corp.:
News Corporation today announced that, following his relocation to the company's headquarters in 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 programs," said Rupert Murdoch, 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."