News International boss James Murdoch, the man who is now at the centre of the phone hacking scandal following the arrests of Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks, told a previous meeting of the Parliamentary culture, media and sport committee that he knew nothing of the notorious ‘for Neville’ email in which a junior reporter transcribed the details of 38 instances of phone hacking by private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.
‘Neville’ appears to refer to Neville Thurlbeck, then the NoW’s chief reporter although he denies involvement in or knowledge of phone hacking at the paper. He has also been arrested.
But today former NoW legal manager Tom Krone and editor Colin Myler told the same committee that they requested and attended a meeting with James Murdoch when they were apprised of the evidence of widespread phone hacking whilst in the process of seeking a settlement with hacking victim Gordon Taylor. At this they told him of the ‘for Neville’ memo.
So either they’re right or James is right. Unless he’s just forgotten the conversation, of which no note was made unfortunately, which hardly seems likely. But then neither do many things or indeed statements by the principals in this sorry affair.
James is now certain to be recalled by the committee. He is also the subject of a complaint by committee member Tom Watson MP to the Metropolitan Police’s Sue Akers who is handling the latest Met inquiry into the affair. We don’t know the precise details of Watson’s complaint yet but he has plenty of things he might include.
In the face of all this it looks nigh on impossible for James to remain as head of News international in the UK. His position as deputy COO at parent company News international, where he oversee the company’s TV businesses outside the US and UK, also looks pretty untenable. As does his chairmanship of UK pay TV operator BSkyB in which News Corp owns 39 per cent.
James’ most pressing concern should be to try to avoid joining the long list of NoW journalists and executives who find themselves under arrest and bailed to appear in court sometime this autumn.
James is, of course, quite capable of making a decision on his own but father Rupert, chairman and CEO of News Corp and James’ biggest supporter as heir apparent at the media giant, will presumably want a word too.
Rupert, who is now 80, and said by some including biographer Michael Wolff to be losing his grip on the company, received and accepted a $12.5m bonus from News Corp for his work in 2010 (James turned down his $6m bonus).
If he’s to continue to merit such a generous crust he needs to put company before family in this latest twist in the never-ending phone hacking affair.