It’s career death for them, whatever the outcome of a trial. And, frankly, things look pretty grim for everyone else at News International as well. In better times, that might have spelt a transfer to The Mirror or The Daily Express. But since they too are now being investigated for alleged hacking offences, some career-repurposing for News International hacks may well be called for. As for The Times, how much is that still losing a year? £60m? And who’s going to keep paying for it?
Not the Murdochs, that seems pretty clear. They’ve already voted with their feet. No Murdoch now sits on the News International company boards, excepting Rupert Murdoch’s eldest daughter Prudence MacLeod – who is hardly in the running as successor to the family firm.
Most conspicuous by his absence is the old boy himself. It’s the first time he has been off at least one UK board since the 1960s. The 81-year-old tycoon, now a naturalised US citizen, used to visit the UK at least once every two months. Such was his hobbyist enthusiasm for the UK news titles; and, even more to the point, for playing politics with the political big-wigs of the day: Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron. Now there are no politics to be played, as anyone bearing the Murdoch moniker is about as popular in the parlours of power as a leper at a beauty contest.
There are those who say Murdoch père may yet install his relatively squeaky-clean son Lachlan as head of the newspaper titles. Don’t count on it. Investors in ultimate holding company News Corp gave Lachlan – as well as his besmirched younger bro James – a big raspberry at the last annual general meeting. No, the Murdochs are nothing if not pragmatists. Losing battles are battles not worth fighting. James, trying to sell News International on the sly, as a quid pro quo to acquiring the 61% of BSkyB the Murdochs did not already own, said it all last year. In so many words.