Murdoch defends handling of crisis to WSJ

AP News
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Posted: Jul 14, 2011 5:53 PM
Murdoch defends handling of crisis to WSJ

News Corp. Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch defended his handling of the tabloid newspaper scandal that threatens his media empire in a story published Thursday and said any speculation that he may sell off the rest of the company's British newspapers is "pure rubbish."

In comments published on the News Corp.-owned Wall Street Journal's website, the 80-year-old executive said he and others in management had handled the crisis "extremely well in every way possible" with just a few "minor mistakes."

The company's shares are down about 15 percent since early last week, when new allegations emerged that News Corp. journalists intercepted phone messages of politicians, celebrities, and sports figures and bribed police in the U.K. In the political firestorm that ensued, the company closed the 168-year-old tabloid News of the World at the center of the scandal, and withdrew its $12 billion bid for the 61 percent of British Sky Broadcasting that it doesn't already own.

The damage done to the company is "nothing that will not be recovered," he said. "We have a reputation of great good works in this country."

Asked if he was bothered by the deluge of negative headlines in recent days, Murdoch said he was "just getting annoyed. I'll get over it. I'm tired."

Murdoch's comments came on the same day that a law enforcement official said the FBI had opened an investigation into News Corp. over reports that its tabloid reporters attempted to hack into the phone records of 9/11 terror attack victims.

Analysts have suggested that the phone-hacking crisis should make Murdoch reconsider the value of owning other News Corp. newspapers in Britain, including the Sun, the Times of London and the Sunday Times.

Newspapers contributed less than 3 percent of the company's operating profit in the most recent quarter and the business is troubled as advertisers shift spending to the Internet.

But Murdoch, a devout admirer of the newspaper business, called the reports "pure rubbish. Pure and total rubbish ... give it the strongest denial you can give."

Murdoch reiterated plans announced earlier for the company to establish a special committee within the company to investigate charges of improper conduct.