There is much ado at The Australian this morning following the discovery that News Corporation’s head honcho in Australia, Kim Williams, was not the only one to receive a Murdoch summons to New York over the weekend.

The Australian‘s editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell was also flown across to the Big Apple to be briefed on Rupert’s plans to split his newspapers off from News Corp’s hugely profitable entertainment business.

The paper’s hacks — who we’re told will be briefed tomorrow afternoon — are speculating on just what this could mean.

Mitchell is a favourite of Rupert’s, one insider tells us, because he’s made The Oz into the paper he always wanted it to be. So could it be that he’s in line to take over the Australian business when it’s hived off as an independent company?

Well, possibly, but someone a bit closer to the throne tells us that Mitchell was not the only extra passenger. Also crowding into the forward cabin of a US-bound jumbo were News Ltd’s two other most senior executives, ex-Herald and Weekly Times MD Peter Blunden and editorial director Campbell Reid. All four apparently arrived back in Australia this morning.

So what were they doing there? “Well, they didn’t go to see the f-cking Yankees, that’s for sure,” says our source. “They were there to be told how it’s going to work and what Rupert expects from them.”

As to whether one of this editorial trio will end up running the new Australian newspaper group, nobody knows. “None of us have got a f-cking clue,” says one source. “We have no idea what’s going on,” says another.

Staff at The Oz‘s Holt Street newsroom have been summoned to a 4.15pm meeting tomorrow afternoon. Unless Mitchell tells one of his eager media scribes first, that’s the first indication we’ll get as to what went down.

But there’s much still to play out. Like all that talk from the rumour mill in the US that Lachlan Murdoch will be coming in as chairman …

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Peter Fray

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