Mar 1, 2012

Mayne: James Murdoch’s resignation means nothing

Don’t for a moment believe that James Murdoch has been appropriately sanctioned or punished for his role in the huge cover-up operation deployed to deny massive phone hacking and illegal payments to public officials.

Stephen Mayne — Journalist and Founder

Stephen Mayne

Journalist and Founder

The text message arrived from ABC News 24 at 6.58am.
"Any chance you could come to the studio to do an interview on James Murdoch’s resignation?"
Cripes, what a bombshell. This was going to be a huge day, a bit like when Lachlan Murdoch walked with a $10 million payout in 2005. Alas, what News Corp announced this morning was nothing more than confirming what was announced on March 30 last year. James Murdoch is moving to New York to be News Corp’s global 3IC, sporting the title deputy chief operating officer. He is formally severing responsibility for the British newspaper operation and it is important that today's announcement confirmed that News International’s new CEO, former Paul Keating adviser Tom Mockridge, is reporting directly to Rupert’s deputy, Chase Carey. But don’t for a moment believe that James Murdoch has been appropriately sanctioned or punished for his role in the huge cover-up operation deployed to deny massive phone hacking and illegal payments to public officials. He’s even staying on as chairman of BSkyB. You’ve got to hand it to the Murdochs -- their undying commitment to nepotism above and beyond any normal notion of accountability is something to behold. While every other senior News Corp executive connected to UK newspaper illegality has been thrown overboard, the Murdochs refuse to take meaningful responsibility. Given the scale of what is unfolding at the Leveson inquiry, I very much doubt this is a sustainable strategy and still believe James Murdoch faces the serious prospect of being charged in the UK. Charges in the US are also in prospect and the move to New York will make James a bigger target for US authorities. Similarly, I'll be very surprised if Rupert is still executive chairman at the time of this year’s AGM in October. What the Murdochs are refusing to accept is that almost 80% of the independent votes at last year’s News Corp AGM went against James and Lachlan Murdoch. Lachlan Murdoch came a cropper when he moved to New York, so today's comments by Murdoch’s most insightful biographer Michael Wolff, are instructive:
"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."
That is pretty savage commentary and you need to know the history. Like most journalists, Wolff's observations are skewed to promote the interests of his sources, several of whom are sacked News Corp executives. One of the biggest mistakes Rupert Murdoch made was giving Wolff carte blanche to the family and various News Corp executives. It was Gary Ginsberg who recommended this and after the strategy went pear-shaped, he was and should have been fired. Peter Chernin was the biggest loss and this happened after the crazy $US5.6 billion purchase of Dow Jones in 2007, something which the whole board should have prevented. Lead independent director Sir Rod Eddington once told me that Lon Jacobs used to be very aggressive in the way he dealt with Rupert. That's fine, but he also made some big blunders, most notably the News America Marketing stuff-ups that resulted in a $US500 million settlement last year. The result of this is that Rupert and James have burnt through some of their best executives and very few people remain who can stand up to them. Tactically, the family has played the UK newspaper scandal appallingly, but for mine that is more to do with Rupert than James. If the company had any moral compass or sense of decency, both would completely resign as executive directors. But for that you’d need some independent directors with spine, which is still sadly lacking at News Corp.

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14 thoughts on “Mayne: James Murdoch’s resignation means nothing

  1. khtagh

    Any takers on a bet James will try to run back to Australia before they come knocking on his door in N.Y.
    Would our government have the balls to extradite him ?

  2. billie

    Is News Corp bugging the office of the Australian Prime Minister, they have bugged every one else

  3. Whistleblower

    If James Murdoch and a dog turd were on the footpath in front of you, you would make sure that you would step on the dog turd as the lesser of two evils.

  4. zut alors

    As much as I have no time for the slippery James M, the buck stops at the top. For all his money and power the Old Man can’t stop this avalanche – which happened under his rule.

  5. Socratease

    The ‘Rosebud’ moment gets closer and closer.

  6. DF

    Which of the six Murdoch kids have Australian passports or the right to PR? Did the Americans let the old man keep his Aust passport? Does he have a right to PR? Anyone know?

  7. Liz45

    I’d like to think that at least one Murdoch would be arrested and charged. Maybe a faint hope, but?? Wouldn’t it be great?

    All this makes me recall the ‘what goes around comes around’. Many of the documented low life stories are being recognised; the methods by which they ‘gathered’ evidence is now being publicized. I think it’s great!

    Personally, I’d like to see the US Govt arrest RM, and take him to the cleaners? Now that WOULD be a great day! He’d probably squeal and expect the Australian Govt to come to his aid???

  8. kennethrobinson2

    Unfortunately this gutless government would come to his aid, I just wonder what dirt he has on them.
    They certainly wont help Assarge, love or hate him he is still an AUSSIE, I wonder about old Rup?.

  9. michael r james

    In no way am I going to shed a tear for James M. but it is still a bit ironic that he is being made to carry the can for the newspaper disasters in the UK. He is a new media man and not at all a newspaper man like his old man. If it were not for the NotW problem he would have pulled off one of the great Murdoch deals by buying all of BSkyB–just another couple of months would have done it. If James had taken Rupert’s place at the top of News, his inclination would have been to sell the newspapers–of course part of the unspoken deal with his father would have precluded it until dad was dead or ga-ga. He may have been in charge of the newspapers when the sh!t hit the fan but all that bad behaviour was well established by previous and future Rupert’s men & women. J just had the misfortune of bad timing and little interest in what was going on. Certainly everyone knows that the responsibility for the rogue behaviour belongs firmly with one person: Rupert.

  10. Stephen

    After the manner of a certain newspaper, couldn’t James just be reappointed in six months under a different name?

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