James Murdoch: heir apparent to media empire

14th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

James Murdoch, the youngest son of Rupert Murdoch, runs News Corp.'s Asian and European operations, but will now appear before British MPs investigating a scandal engulfing the family's media empire.

The 38-year-old heir apparent, who oversaw the closure of the 168-year-old British weekly tabloid News of the World at the weekend, Thursday agreed with his father to testify to a parliamentary hearing on the phone-hacking scandal.

News of the World was axed amid outrage over allegations that journalists at the tabloid hacked into the phones of murdered British teenager Milly Dowler and the families of dead soldiers.

The FBI said meanwhile Thursday that it was probing to see whether the phone-hacking firestorm had reached US shores.

James was named News Corp.'s deputy chief operating officer in March 2011 and serves as chief executive of the news and entertainment giant's international operations, overseeing operations in Asia and Europe.

The cell phone hacking allegedly ended before James became the top News Corp. executive in charge of the tabloid, while direct responsibility for the illegal phone operations may eventually fall to the paper's former editor, Murdoch loyalist Rebekah Brooks.

But it has fallen to James to manage the growing crisis that has already seen his father, Rupert Murdoch, drop a bid to takeover the remaining share of pay TV giant BSkyB which News Corporation does not own.

After his promotion in March, James Murdoch moved from London to New York and began reporting to president and chief operating officer Chase Carey. The appointment was largely seen as one more indicator that the younger Murdoch will take over from his 80-year-old father as News Corp.'s chairman.

At the time, News Corp. said James Murdoch would bring "significant operational expertise to bear across News Corporation's broad asset portfolio, collaborating with senior leaders to develop and execute strategies and plans that strengthen and further evolve businesses, extend brands, and build new franchises."

James Murdoch's elder brother Lachlan served in a senior role in the company until 2005, when he decided to resign his executive posts.

As the fourth child of Australian-born Rupert Murdoch's six children, James is the third and last child his father had with his second wife, Anna.

In his youth, James was considered a rebel with his earrings, baggy pants and platinum blond hair. Today he sports metal glasses and short hair and is married to an American with whom he has two children.

After dropping out of Harvard in 1995, James Murdoch created his own hip hop label, "Rawkus," which was bought by News Corp. in 1998.

Returning to the family business, he managed News Corp.'s musical division before backing Australian telecoms company One-Tel with his brother Lachlan and James Packer, son of late Australian media tycoon Kerry Packer.

One-Tel folded with heavy losses in 2001, but by then James had moved on to Hong Kong where he was sent in 2000 to manage Star TV.

Three years later in 2003, his father named James the chief executive of BSkyB (British Sky Broadcasting), one of the most important British media businesses in the News Corp. empire.

The appointment at age 30 to head the British satellite television broadcaster made him the youngest chief executive in FTSE 100 history.

In a day of drama Thursday, James and Rupert Murdoch were formally summoned to attend a hearing of parliament's media select committee after they initially said they were unable to be there.

But a spokeswoman for Murdoch's News Corp. later said: "News Corp. can confirm that we are in the process of writing to the select committee with the intention that James Murdoch and Rupert Murdoch will both attend on Tuesday."

At the time of his promotion in March 2011, his father's glowing tribute fueled speculation of even greater things to come.

"James is a talented and proven executive with a rare blend of international perspective and deep, hands-on experience in improving operational results," said the ageing media chief.

© 2011 AFP

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