James Murdoch Steps Down At News Corp.

Nobody ever truly leaves the mafia, do they?

James Murdoch has left the boards of operating companies overseeing News Corp.'s U.K. newspapers the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times, according to British regulatory filings, which registered the changes in September.

Mr. Murdoch, News Corp.'s deputy chief operating officer, resigned from the boards of a number of subsidiary companies of News International, the media conglomerate's U.K. newspaper unit. But he remains the News International chairman and a director of the holding company for the Times and the Sunday Times.

So it's not the complete break that is really warranted, given the scope of the phone hacking scandal, but Rupert wouldn't do that to his heir apparent. James Murdoch continues to claim that the extent of the hacking--which clearly went far beyond simply "bad apples" at News of the World--was hidden from him. Willful ignorance or no, this resignation does mean that there is no member of the Murdoch family on any of the boards of their flagship newspapers in the UK, giving rise to rumors of a sale of their interests in British papers to stem the scandal from their international interests. It also rightly calls into question the chances of Murdoch the son being re-elected Chairman of BSkyB, though that's not the most schadenfreude-lectable aspect:

Whether James should continue to chair meetings of Sky's board is of little moment when set against the often bitter and tangled family drama unfolding behind the scenes. Having failed to keep his daughter Elisabeth and his elder son, Lachlan, at his side in the company hierarchy, Rupert sees James as his last hope of ensuring that the business founded by his father, Sir Keith, remain under family control.

For while the grand façade of News Corp.'s steel-and-glass headquarters on Sixth Avenue in New York, is imposing, it disguises the fact that News Corp. is run like a mom-and-pop shop. And investors are losing patience with the Murdochs always putting family first. As the shareholders suing because they believe the old man paid too much for Elisabeth's film production company, Shine, put it, “Murdoch has treated News Corp. like a family candy jar, which he raids whenever his appetite strikes.”

Stay tuned...


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