Murdoch Ditches Top U.K. Exec After Big Saudi Investor Calls For Her Sacking

Throughout the scandal that now subsumes Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, wags have expressed awe at Murdoch's loyalty to Rebekah Wade Brooks, the chief executive at News International, the News Corp division that runs its British newspapers. Today, the Guardian reports, Brooks resigned from the company, under pressure from a Saudi prince who who holds a 7-percent stake in News Corp.

Brooks was editor of News of the World at the time the paper hacked the voice-mail account of Milly Dowler, the British teenager who disappeared in 2002, and was later found murdered.

News of the World hackers actually deleted some of Dowler's phone messages when her mailbox filled up (in the hope of finding juicier messages coming in), giving false hope to her parents and police that she was still alive.

Up until today, Murdoch and his son, James, News Corp.'s deputy chief operating officer, had so steadfastly defended Brooks (who is a close family friend) that some said Murdoch's closure of the News of the World last Sunday was meant to save Brooks' career at News Corp.

But yesterday, according to the Guardian, when a Saudi prince called for Brooks' ouster, Murdoch folded, perhaps in light of the major hit that News Corp.'s stock has taken in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal. From the Guardian:

[T]he last straw may well have been Thursday night's Newsnight interview with News International parent company News Corporation's second largest shareholder, Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal al-Saud, in which he called for her to stand down amid questions over her "integrity". Al-Saud, who controls a 7% stake in News Corp, said: "For sure she has to go, you bet she has to go."

Brooks also faced an uncomfortable appearance before MPs on the Commons culture, media and sport select committee on Tuesday along with Rupert and James Murdoch to answer questions about the phone-hacking scandal. In her resignation statement she indicated that she would still appear before the committee.

 Still hanging in the balance is the News Corp. career of Les Hinton, currently CEO of the Dow Jones Company and publisher of the Wall Street Journal. Hinton held Brook's current position for more than a decade, during which time the phone-hacking took place, and twice appeared before a committee in the House of Commons, where he asserted that his internal investigation of phone-hacking at News of the World -- which also turned out to include hacks of the voice-mail accounts of celebrities, aides to the royal family, and even victims of the 2007 London subway bombings -- showed the wrongdoing limited to the work of one reporter, Clive Goodman, who was jailed for his role in the hacking (and has been subsequently arrested again).

As it turns out, the Guardian reported this week, Hinton, prior to his testimony, had access to reports from an internal investigation that showed the hacking to be widespread among staff of the News of the World newsroom. Since Hinton took the helm at the Wall Street Journal, AlterNet has reported, a member of the paper's editorial board and one of its opinion columnists have been simultaneously working for David Koch's Americans For Prosperity Foundation.


AlterNet / By Adele M. Stan

Posted at July 15, 2011, 2:52am

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