James Murdoch: heir of scandal-tainted media empire

18th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

James Murdoch, the youngest son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, is to be grilled with his father on Tuesday by British lawmakers investigating the phone-hacking scandal engulfing the family's media empire.

The 38-year-old heir apparent, who runs News Corp.'s Asian and European operations, oversaw the closure of the 168-year-old British weekly tabloid News of the World earlier this month, amid revelations that the tabloid hacked into the phones of murdered British teenager Milly Dowler and the families of dead soldiers.

After initially declining to appear before the British parliamentary committee, father and son have agreed to testify Tuesday, in hopes of tamping down international outrage that the scandal has stirred up.

It has fallen largely to James Murdoch to manage the growing crisis after the arrest over the weekend of Rebekah Brooks, the head of News International, the British subsidiary of News Corp., who had originally been scheduled to appear at the hearing as well.

Brooks, 43, was arrested Sunday by British police on corruption and hacking allegations, just two days after she quit as head of Murdoch's British newspaper wing, amid a growing chorus of calls for the break-up of Murdoch's British empire.

As the scandal in Britain raged on US federal authorities last week said they were probing to see whether the phone-hacking firestorm had reached US shores.

Meanwhile, James Murdoch who currently is chairman of BSkyB, will come under the intense scrutiny of shareholders and non-executive directors on July 28, as they mull the media scion's future with News Corp.

The company last week retracted its controversial bid to take over the remaining share that it does not yet own of BSkyB, Britain's biggest satellite broadcaster -- a deal which the Murdoch scion never was in favor of.

James was named News Corp.'s deputy chief operating officer since March 2011 and also chief executive of the news and entertainment giant

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

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 eventually will take over from his 80-year-old father as News Corp.'s chairman.

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 aging media chief.

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

And another Murdoch offspring, Elisabeth, created Shine, a leading international production company that has created global reality show hits like "MasterChef," "The Biggest Loser" and "One Born Every Minute."

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

But 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.

© 2011 AFP

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