Now even News Corporation insiders are speculating about James Murdoch’s departure

Well according to the usually conservative Reuters they are. The report has been denied officially by News Corporation, but it could hardly do otherwise.

But it finally seems to be dawning on News Corp managers (although this might not include chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch) that the younger Murdoch’s position is increasingly untenable as he suffers a humiliating public ordeal by a thousand cuts as more details emerge of alleged wrongdoing at British newspaper subsidiary News International under his chairmanship.

In a way this is tough on James, who is deputy COO of News Corp and in charge of its TV interests outside the US as well as chairman of part-owned BSkyB, as he surely never wanted to get involved in the murky pond of British tabloid newspapers to begin with.

Like most other News Corp types, excluding his dad and recently-departed US newspaper boss Les Hinton, he sees newspapers as the past and not the future. It’s at least possible that some of his contentious actions at News International, like signing off the £700,000 phone hacking settlement with PFA boss Gordon Taylor, were part of a desire to close the lid on something he didn’t really understand.

But he was the man in charge and it looks as though his wider (and upward) ambitions within News Corp will be placed on hold, through leaving temporarily or permanently.

This will be a severe blow to Rupert Murdoch who, at 80, can’t make the succession issue in the company entirely a family matter. Parachuting in another Murdoch, either elder son Lachlan or daughter Elizabeth, would be too much for even News Corp’s long-suffering shareholders.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.