As more News of the World hacking claims emerged involving News International staff themselves being targeted, James Murdoch quit his job as executive chairman of News International.

The latest hacking victim is Rebekah Brooks, the feisty ex-NotW editor who also resigned as a News International executive after public outcry at the hacking last year. It seems that when Brooks was editor of The Sun — another News International paper — her old NotW colleagues were illegally accessing her voicemails around twice a week. She was informed of that she was a potential victim back in 2006 and invited to join a prosecution led by Scotland Yard against the hacking, but declined the offer.

Detective Chief Superintendent Philip Williams revealed the news at the Levenson Inquiry, where he also spoke of the difficulty in getting News International to co-operate with the original investigation — which only examined a very narrow list of potential victims, although there was already information that more were likely.

“Now that the nature of our investigation was overt, I was not surprised at the lengths that News of the World went to within the law to make sure that we only ever received what they were obliged to provide,” said Williams.

For around a year now it’s been slated by News Corp that James Murdoch would be moving back to the headquarters in New York.

“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,” said dad and boss Rupert Murdoch in a statement.

Don’t believe Rupert’s claim that James will be involved in “essential corporate leadership mandates”, says Michael Wolf, in a scathing character assassination of James at The Guardian:

“Let us first dispense with that fig leaf: James Murdoch does not have a role at News Corp. He is the shadow man. Nobody talks to him – not even, at least not meaningfully, his father. (They once spoke two or three times a day, managing the affairs of their world.) His siblings shun or pity him. He has not existed as a force, and hardly as presence, since the meltdown of the News of the World last summer.

And, to say the least, there is no possibility that he will inherit the top job.

The reality is stark: everybody in the company blames James for the terrible things that have happened in London. They blame his father for falling under James’s sway – but blame James more for swaying him.

In a way, it’s even starker than that: since he left the top job at BSkyB at his father’s behest and took over News Corp’s operations in Europe and Asia, James has become the most disliked man in the company. This is partly because, for all the obvious reasons, Murdoch’s entitled children would breed a predictable resentment. But additionally, it is because James is an extraordinarily cold, abrasive know-it-all.”

He’s no longer the heir-in-waiting, says Julia Werdigier and Alan Cowell at The New York Times:

“Earlier this month, Rupert Murdoch flew to London to restore morale at his battered British outpost. When he visited the newsroom of The Sun, his top-selling daily tabloid, Mr. Murdoch was accompanied by his son Lachlan, rather than by James, as he ordered an end to the suspension of reporters and editors caught up in the hacking scandal. He also unveiled plans for a new Sunday edition of The Sun, which made its first appearance four days ago.

The presence of Lachlan suggested to media analysts that James — who had been the heir apparent and overall head of British newspaper operations until the phone hacking scandal that erupted last summer — may have ceded his place to his older brother. Lachlan, a onetime heir apparent himself, had a falling-out with News Corporation executives in 2005.”

Ellen Branagh and Joe Churcher at The Independent agree:

“The 39-year-old News Corp deputy chief operating officer initially appeared to be more than capable of surviving the unfolding crisis engulfing News International – initially impressing some with his steely response, including the dramatic closure of the News of the World.

But claims that he knew about the now-notorious “For Neville” email, despite repeatedly insisting he was not aware of it, have dogged him.

And his defiant performance at his father Rupert Murdoch’s side when he faced the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee last July came, reports suggested, amid efforts within the family to oust him.

Those were resisted but he then had to rely mostly on the large family stake in News Corp to remain on its board at all.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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