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Farewell Big Harto: News Ltd CEO John Hartigan resigns

Rupert Murdoch has delivered a savage verdict on the health of his Australian operation, with veteran News Ltd CEO John Hartigan stepping aside and Rupert taking the company’s chairmanship for himself.

Foxtel head Kim Williams will be appointed in Hartigan’s place, with The Australian and News Digital’s current CEO Richard Freudenstein taking Williams’ former role. John Allan, fingered in June as the broadsheet’s chief operating officer, will ascend to chief executive.

Hartigan, 64, was appointed CEO in 2000 and chairman of the company in 2005. While the official statement released by News suggested he had left of his own accord, insiders have already begun to suggest he may have been pushed.

John’s decision will end a distinguished 41 year career with News in which he has given us exemplary service and incredible leadership,” Murdoch, 80, said in the press release.

John was an outstanding reporter, an editor with few peers and has been an inspiring executive, initially as Group Editorial Director and, later, as Chief Executive for 11 years and Chairman and Chief Executive for the past six.

Few people have contributed as much as John to the quality of journalism in Australia. He has earned enormous respect among both colleagues and competitors.”

Murdoch was in Sydney last week to preside over the company’s annual black-tie “News Awards” at the Hordern Pavilion. On Monday he was in Melbourne to celebrate the opening of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. As former Herald Sun editor Bruce Guthrie documented in his book Man Bites Murdoch, the ageing global chief sometimes makes a habit of dismissing staff during his annual official sojourn to Australia.

Holt Street insiders told Crikey this afternoon that the newsroom was in “total shock” at the decision.

I’m completely shocked, no-one saw it coming basically. Nobody seems to know why he was stepping down or was pushed. I really can’t work out why. I know the rumour has been around for months. I did hear some rumours floating about that it might happen but I still don’t really know why.”

One possible motivation for hiring Williams was the burly enforcer’s passion for subscription services honed at the helm of Foxtel. News Limited has announced it will soon ringfence its major websites as part of a paid content push.

The staffer said there are drinks for their boss — popularly known as “Harto” — tonight at 6:30pm, presumably at Surry Hills’ Evening Star.

Crikey first reported Hartigan’s looming departure in September after an exclusive “Project Darwin” leak detailing News Limited’s strategy to become News Australia. But it seems Hartigan will not be given the opportunity to see the reform through.

According to a leaked pitch-brief, Hartigan was expected to embark on “strategy and change” capital city road show in November, before making the branding shift official.

Despite the turmoil engulfing other parts of News’ global operation, Hartigan has consistently denied a link between travesties like the News of the World phone hacking scandal and the local arm controlled by him.

However, last year, he did oversee both the Melbourne Storm salary cap scandal and the Guthrie unfair dismissal case in which his witness box evidence was branded unreliable by a judge. There have also been precipitous circulation declines at News’ flagship tabloids the Herald Sun and the Daily Telegraph with the picture expected to darken further when September quarter figures are released this week.

The company’s relationship with the federal government has also soured under Hartigan’s watch. The Greens-prompted media inquiry, at which Hartigan is still set to give evidence next week, was set up partly in response to NoTW. Federal government ministers including Stephen Conroy and Wayne Swan have maintained the rage at populist editorial lines aimed at destabilising the government.

Hartigan, who was appointed as CEO 11 years ago and served for 40 years at News, was sanguine in the release announcing the departure, saying he was “immensely proud of News. I am privileged to have worked for such a great company. I want to thank the many colleagues that have helped, encouraged, inspired and challenged me to be the best I can be.”

“As a reporter I worked with some great editors. As an editor I worked with incredibly talented people and as a senior executive I could not have asked for a better management team.

“I am indebted to the millions of readers who buy our newspapers every day and to our advertisers for their great support.

In Rupert, I have been fortunate to work for a proprietor who cares passionately about journalism and the vital role that a free press plays in a democracy,” he said.

Mr Hartigan started at Sydney’s Daily Mirror in 1970 as a reporter and, later, The Daily Telegraph. He went on to work for Murdoch standards The Sun in London and the New York Post.

He is regarded as having done a solid job managing the Australian arm of the empire, however a downturn in advertising recently prompted a radical strategy rethink. In September, a leaked memo obtained by Crikey revealed a plan to cut costs by 15-20 per cent over the next three years. Costs across each division were to be reduced by 5% with a freeze on new hiring.

Hartigan, whose partner is Daily Telegraph columnist Rebecca Wilson, will leave News at the end of the month.

Read the full release:

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – 9 November, 2011 – News Corporation Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mr Rupert Murdoch today announced that Mr John Hartigan will step down as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of News Limited.

“John’s decision will end a distinguished 41 year career with News in which he has given us exemplary service and incredible leadership,” Mr Murdoch said.

“John was an outstanding reporter, an editor with few peers and has been an inspiring executive, initially as Group Editorial Director and, later, as Chief Executive for 11 years and Chairman and Chief Executive for the past six.

“Few people have contributed as much as John to the quality of journalism in Australia. He has earned enormous respect among both colleagues and competitors.”

Mr Murdoch also praised Mr Hartigan’s leadership of a long running campaign to defend the public’s right to know how it is governed and how our courts dispense justice.

Few people have done as much as John to campaign on the public’s behalf to uphold freedom of speech and freedom of the press in Australia.

“I thank John for having contributed so much to our company and applaud his great integrity, immense journalistic talent and inspirational leadership,” said Mr Murdoch.

Mr Hartigan joined the company in Sydney in 1970 as a reporter on The Daily Mirror, and, later, The Daily Telegraph. He went on to work for The Sun in London and the New York Post.

After returning to Australia, Mr Hartigan became Editor of Queensland’s Sunday Sun, and later the founding Editor of the Brisbane metropolitan daily, The Daily Sun, and a director of Queensland Sun Newspapers.

In 1986 Mr Hartigan was appointed Editor of The Daily Telegraph, and three years later was promoted to Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph.

In 1997 Mr Hartigan was appointed Group Editorial Director, the company’s most senior editorial position responsible for of all of the company’s newspapers.

He was appointed Chief Executive Officer of News Limited in 2000 and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer in 2005.

Mr Hartigan said “I am immensely proud of News. I am privileged to have worked for such a great company. I want to thank the many colleagues that have helped, encouraged, inspired and challenged me to be the best I can be.

“As a reporter I worked with some great editors. As an editor I worked with incredibly talented people and as a senior executive I could not have asked for a better management team.

“I am indebted to the millions of readers who buy our newspapers every day and to our advertisers for their great support.

In Rupert, I have been fortunate to work for a proprietor who cares passionately about journalism and the vital role that a free press plays in a democracy,” said Mr Hartigan.

In recent years Mr Hartigan has delivered numerous speeches on the future of journalism at industry conferences and at the National Press Club.

In 2007 he delivered the ABC’s Andrew Olle Lecture to great acclaim and in 2006 he delivered the Australian National University’s Reconciliation Lecture, calling for new approaches to solving indigenous disadvantage and the need for better education and employment opportunities for indigenous Australians.

In 2007 Mr Hartigan led the formation of a media coalition “Australia’s Right to Know” which has successfully campaigned for changes in legislation to improve the openness and transparency of government and the courts.

In 2008 Mr Hartigan joined a small group of distinguished journalists to be awarded the Walkley Award for Journalistic Leadership.

Mr Hartigan has been a longstanding director of News Limited and its subsidiary companies, Queensland Press, Advertiser Newspapers and The Herald and Weekly Times Limited. He is also chairman of Australian News Channel which owns and operates Sky News and was, previously, a director of FOXTEL.

Among his external board and community responsibilities he is a director of The Bradman Foundation, the American Australian Association and the NSW Wine Industry Council. He was recently appointed as a director of the NSW Export and Investment Advisory Board.

Mr Hartigan will leave the company on 30 November, 2011.

43
  • 1
    Mack the Knife
    Posted Wednesday, 9 November 2011 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    John’s decision” hahahaha. Just goes to show, even 40 years of obsequious service means nothing to Murdoch. Loyalty is a one way street to the man.

  • 2
    TD G
    Posted Wednesday, 9 November 2011 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    I really wouldn’t be surprised if Rupert is trying to reign in News Ltd. He has always been willing to interfere in politics, but normally with his commercial interests as his first consideration. In Australia, however, News Ltd’s arrogance is threatening News Corp’s commercial interests - the government cannot stand News Ltd due to its increasingly partisan reporting and won’t do it any favours, there is a media inquiry investigating concerns primarily about News Ltd, there are many people calling for the forced divestiture of News Ltd papers, and the Australia Network tender process has been overridden primarily to stop Sky winning the contract.

    If News Ltd would just report the news, it would be facing no threats and could continue to expand without serious opposition. Instead, it has decided to become a partisan player and has made itself the news, creating many, many enemies who will do everything in their power to weaken it.

  • 3
    Peace Piece
    Posted Wednesday, 9 November 2011 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    Good Riddance to the King of the Hate Media!

  • 4
    Oscar Jones
    Posted Wednesday, 9 November 2011 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    I agree that Murdoch must be very concerned with the direction his Oz newspapers have taken over the past few years which I see veering towards a precipice.

    Rupert in the end, is a newspaper man and his baby, The Australian has become a joke.
    Not only my view but certainly the view of so many I ask who are normally readers but cannot handle the extraordinary, partisan and vocal bias against the current government. It’s one thing to openly support an Opposition or Government of the day.
    They can get away with in the Hun or Terror but the manner in which the Oz does it is like an insult to the intelligence.
    I subscribe to many on-line newspapers but the line-up of Oz writers spouting propaganda has become laughable.

    Interesting that Gough Whitlam’s son-in-law should now takeover.

  • 5
    George Stitt
    Posted Wednesday, 9 November 2011 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    Minor point: the Aurora, on the corner of Kippax St and Elizabeth St, is the News Limited pub of choice these days.

  • 6
    Fran Barlow
    Posted Wednesday, 9 November 2011 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    This is a great day. Media buffoon Hartigan and Media criminal Berlusconi rolled on the same day … There’s also something to be said for swapping the monkey for the organ-grinder.

    Cop that all you RWDBs …

    Follow me on Twitter @fran_b__

  • 7
    Nici
    Posted Wednesday, 9 November 2011 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    They’re surprised and shocked? It should have happened a year ago after the Guthrie and the Storm cockups.

  • 8
    GocomSys
    Posted Wednesday, 9 November 2011 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Mr Hartigan will leave LIMITED NEWS on 30 November, 2011.
    Mr Abbott will relinquish his leadership of the LNP on 1 April 2012.

  • 9
    Lord Barry Bonkton
    Posted Wednesday, 9 November 2011 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    He left Ltd News with a Shoe print on his back. Ha Ha What a great week , the Carbon Tax goes though , Harto gets booted and my local Cr. Hajnal Black (ex LNP ) facing criminal charges (another Sophie )in the Supreme court. Logan City Mayor has told her to stand down. With two more days to go, what else can cheer me up ?
    Abbott caught in toilet with pants down ??? Barnaby Joyce sacked for drinking on the job ?????

  • 10
    mook schanker
    Posted Wednesday, 9 November 2011 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps TD G you are right.

    I could go one further and compare the Murdoch stable of media in the US or UK where there is perhaps a perception of breadth of views. (I use the word ‘perception’ loosely mind you).

    The problem with News Ltd Australia, is the differing outputs obviously sound like the one boring partisan voice. Reporting in the Oz just reads like eloquent versions of Bolt, where the same process of hand picked evidence political, economic or otherwise only exists to reinforce ‘a view’. This partisan behaviour devalues differentiation amongst the Ltd stable, that is, how can The Australian somehow ask readers to pay a premium when perceived value add is zero when compared to a stable of freebies? With the advent of implementing paywalls, they better be scurrying quick to add value by showing breadth of views and a differentiated (premium) option, to not only potential readers (buyers), but also institutions where Murdoch has to stakeholder manage for commercial gain….

  • 11
    Tracey Henderson
    Posted Wednesday, 9 November 2011 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    Conspiracy theory #43 Any link between this announcement and deferred Aus Network tender; the whisper that govt may pull adverts from The Oz; or climate bill getting through yesterday?

  • 12
    fredex
    Posted Wednesday, 9 November 2011 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    Right, now I’ll start buying Ltd News newspapers again.

    No I won’t.

  • 13
    Posted Wednesday, 9 November 2011 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    I fail to understand the manifold ‘shock’ being express by Murdoch staffers. All they had to do was to read some of the, admittedly less than eulogistic, books written about the man, to know he is a breaker, not a maker. Lets face it he discards of old partners and scribes quicker than a stripper taking off her gloves.

    Shed no tears for Hartigan, he will have made a bomb. It’s the looming closeness of the evil one that should preoccupy the commentariat. Hartigan may have been a stalwart of the press but the thought of all that loyalty to Murdoch suggests that John Hartigan knew a few dodgy facts or two, or three.

  • 14
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted Wednesday, 9 November 2011 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    So why not sack the vile bile and hate trolls like Bolt and Akerman.

  • 15
    ace ventura
    Posted Wednesday, 9 November 2011 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    you know i reckon rupes must be going on a public image publicity drive?
    theres been nothing but bad publicity for him, what with notw, and the manne essay, and basically every man and his dog seeing that the whole organisation is a corrupt politically snivellous hate machine. i saw it yesterday in that obvious cash splash for profile enhancement. he’s definitely wanting to change the public image about himself and his organisation. not that i believe he wants people to see him as he is, i believe he’s a cu…. well, you know. but to fool people into believing he’s not as bad as he is? maybe we’ll see the OZ having more favourable articles about ozgov from now on? i don’t read the telle, but i can’t see it happening in the hun, due t the coalition government in power and all.

    thanks for listening….

  • 16
    Daryl...
    Posted Wednesday, 9 November 2011 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    The typically violent themes in these posts are typical of the bile that the left of this country has evolved into.

    You are all a disgrace. Hitting out at anybody who dares to disagree with the dangerous and extreme views the left have been forcing on us for decades.

    The current attack on the freedom of speech in my beloved Australia is an affront to democracy and is an extremely un-Australian move by a government and political class that has long ago forgotten how proud us common Aussies are of our country.

    The foolishness and reckless behaviour of the past few years will not stand.

  • 17
    jusloy
    Posted Wednesday, 9 November 2011 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    Monday’s Daily Telegraph

    The repatriation of three dead Australian soldiers is reported on page 11 … meanwhile, Ron Delezio’s allergic reaction to an MRI dye is front page news.

    Nuff said.

  • 18
    ace ventura
    Posted Wednesday, 9 November 2011 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    DARYL…: Bwhaaaahhaaaahahahaahahaa……

    Yaya, you are reacting, brilliant!!
    the last death throes of the “right”.
    better not let anyone catch you out, for they would be COMMUNISTS ….. LOL
    good job, it’s almost over for you, keep screeching you might be heard by someone….

  • 19
    Peace Piece
    Posted Wednesday, 9 November 2011 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    Oh please spare us Daryl you are mistaking joy and celebration for violence my fine fellow Australian!

    And by the way what exactly do you find dangerous about caring for less fortunate Australians,the environment,accuracy,honesty and ethics in journalism and a fair go for all.

  • 20
    Posted Wednesday, 9 November 2011 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    DAZZA: You could try getting the chips off your shoulders and stop trying to create a them and us scenario. You are the one putting your beloved country at hazard.

    Are you, as a common Aussie, comfortable with Oz going to war at America’s demand, going into a losing theatre of war-no one has beaten the Afghanis since Alexander the Great-and sending all those fine young soldiers into battle to die?

    The hypocritical show of Prime Ministers almost crying over the latest casualty. The attendance of all the top military brass at each soldier’s funeral is sickening and has to be regarded as an obscene piece of hypocrisy, and theatre, when they were the ones who threw away the latest casualty’s young life.

    You can’t love Australia that much or you would see the inequity of the system.

  • 21
    Mark from Melbourne
    Posted Wednesday, 9 November 2011 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    Maybe its as simple as the place has been incredibly ineptly managed for some years. Not all Harto’s fault but at the end of the day he didnt stop the rot so finally someone decided enough was enough. Despite all the conspiracy theories of who is doing what to whom, it is a business and eventually commercial realities have to take precedence.

  • 22
    Mack the Knife
    Posted Wednesday, 9 November 2011 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    A while back Crikey reported that the Victorian Liberals held $58 mill of News Limited shares (and that buys a lot of editorial power)

  • 23
    heavylambs
    Posted Wednesday, 9 November 2011 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    What was Harto’s opinion of going behind the paywall?

  • 24
    jeebus
    Posted Wednesday, 9 November 2011 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    It’s good to see a bitter and hateful partisan removed from such an influential post in the media, although I am curious as to the significance of the move.

    Did Hartigan displease his masters? Or is this start of a larger move to reduce the overt bias and propaganda that demeans News Corp papers, and alienates half the voting population?

    Rupert does tend to smell which way the breeze is blowing, and with the carbon tax victory and Abbott’s credibility in tatters perhaps he detects a change in the air.

  • 25
    jeebus
    Posted Wednesday, 9 November 2011 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

    And I completely forgot to mention the hacking scandal in the UK, which has gone from bad to worse as the facts have been unearthed. Now we have what appears to be a paper trail leading all the way up to the Murdochs.

    This organisation has been involved in systemic illegal hacking, the bribing of police officers, the hiring of thugs to stalk and intimidate victims into silence, the lies and coverups within the organisation from its highest rungs.

    In utter seriousness, those running News International (and News Corporation) have shown themselves criminally unfit to run companies that are supposed to be the watchdogs of our democracy.

  • 26
    Andybob
    Posted Thursday, 10 November 2011 at 4:08 am | Permalink

    Harto as Beast Raban replaced by Williams as Feyd-Rautha ? That would make Rupert Baron Vladimir. What does it all auger for those foot soldiers who have bravely carried Rupert’s standard into battle ? The keenest noses will be sniffing the wind. Will the Bolter pull his head in and change tack ? Will Tony Abott be wondering if he too is out of favor ?

  • 27
    botswana bob
    Posted Thursday, 10 November 2011 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    If this new News bloke wants to “ringfence” various web sites does this mean we will soon have to pay to read the rants of The Blot?

  • 28
    Son of foro
    Posted Thursday, 10 November 2011 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Will Tony Abott be wondering if he too is out of favor ?

    Ever since Charles Schulz passed on, I have been reading the HUN’s letters page for my daily chuckle. The last week has been interesting, in that the number of letters critical of Abbott is slowly growing. I was wondering if the Murdochracy is preparing the ground for something.

    It seems change is in the air and I wouldn’t like to be on Team Abbott right now. Not that I’m ever one to question Abbott’s judgement, but I wouldn’t have thought that now is a good time to choose to go overseas.

  • 29
    Lord Barry Bonkton
    Posted Thursday, 10 November 2011 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Maybe Rupert doesn’t want Harto around later on when the media inquiry starts digging and finding bodies. We need Tom Watson from the UK.

  • 30
    drmick
    Posted Thursday, 10 November 2011 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Good riddance. If he was going to have a spring clean, he could get some decent weedkiller and use it on the the parasitic creepers that have attached themselves to the trunk. Might be worth getting a spanner to the nuts and bolts too.

  • 31
    Arnold Cheeseman
    Posted Thursday, 10 November 2011 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    @Daryl “The typically violent themes in these posts…”

    Huh? What “violent themes” would those be?

    Please feel free to cut and paste any violent quotes in this thread so I can be sure to protect myself in the appropriate manner.

  • 32
    Peace Piece
    Posted Thursday, 10 November 2011 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    So the new boss says politicians need to stop having a glass jaw!
    I wonder if this is a sign that News Limited does not plan to remove their steel boxing gloves?

  • 33
    Mike Flanagan
    Posted Thursday, 10 November 2011 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Yet another example of Rupert’s ‘profound humility’ This is just the first step in the resuurection of the Murdoch family name to some semblance of respectability to bequith his descendants.
    Williams is confronted with a mammoth task to replace the droves of subscribers that have deserted his rags.
    The news and editorial staff needs a vacuum cleaner.

  • 34
    eric
    Posted Thursday, 10 November 2011 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Maybe Rupe will favour Turnbull?

  • 35
    Ron Paul 2012
    Posted Thursday, 10 November 2011 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    I.just.don’t.care

  • 36
    The_roth
    Posted Thursday, 10 November 2011 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    I think you were bang on with the subscription thing about Kim Williams but I also reckon that there might be a bit of bridge building happening as well in that Kim is an in-law of Gough who is a saint in Labor circles. Harto’s Labor vendetta hasn’t helped Rupes Corp one iota so putting a band aid on it might help as I’m sure Julia would like to bury the hatchet and move on.

    I warrant also that there might be some doo doo about to come out and as it is prone to stick it may as well stick to an ex-news employee rather than a current one.

  • 37
    Sancho
    Posted Thursday, 10 November 2011 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    80-year-old replaces 64-year-old at helm. I look forward to News’s innovative and responsive future.

  • 38
    Chris Tallis
    Posted Thursday, 10 November 2011 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    I must agree with the statement that

    Few people have contributed as much as John to the quality of journalism in Australia”

    Its just a shame that that contribution to quality was so negative, good riddance harto.

  • 39
    jusloy
    Posted Thursday, 10 November 2011 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Col Allan must be feeling a tad nervous.

  • 40
    Mike Flanagan
    Posted Thursday, 10 November 2011 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Son Of Foro
    Yes change is apparently in the air!
    One has to hold Rupert’s press releases to a mirror to gain the contrarian understanding of truth of what he has to say and mean. I would venture to assert that Hartigan has been given the shove with a large wad of money and access to an office with a car. Just like Brooksy who he publicly vowed total loyalty to.
    I would imagine Whittaker is reviewing his accumulated files along with his pension entitlements, for his partly responsible for Rupert’s lack of backdoor access to the lodge and the PM’s office.
    Akerman will be reviewing his accumulated records of Rupert’s indiscretions together with his retirement entitlements. He may regret his own indescretions in relation to Rupert’s mother on the ABC.
    Let us all hope that that they all fall victim the ‘Rebekka desease’ of dumping computers in car parks

  • 41
    Posted Thursday, 10 November 2011 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    ARNOLD CHEESMAN: 10:43am, Consider yourself lucky. I’ve just discovered a comment which the author deliberately attributed to me. It was diametrically opposed to everything I believe in. I’m wondering if this qualifies as deformation?

  • 42
    Posted Thursday, 10 November 2011 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    ARNOLD CHEESEMAN: Sorry, the last word should have read ‘defamation’, cheers V

  • 43
    rob smith
    Posted Sunday, 4 December 2011 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    Rats in the rank he can sought that out in jail where Waldron probably wont go!

    Murdoch puppet like Gallop ! And we know what they get up to !

    So corrupt

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