Vanity Fair: Murdoch asked son to take leave

AP News
Posted: Nov 02, 2011 5:23 PM
Vanity Fair: Murdoch asked son to take leave

As the British phone hacking scandal unraveled this summer, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch told his son James that he should take a leave, but he changed his mind after a sleepless night, according to a new article in Vanity Fair.

The article, in the December issue due out Thursday, says Murdoch's daughter Elisabeth pushed the suggestion. It also says the family has been undergoing psychological counseling over who will succeed 80-year-old Rupert Murdoch to run the media conglomerate.

The article on the family's struggle comes as James Murdoch, News Corp.'s 38-year-old deputy chief operating officer, faces increasing pressure over his handling of the affair. He is due to testify before British lawmakers for a second time on Nov. 10.

News Corp. declined to comment.

The story's author, Sarah Ellison, is a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal, which is owned by News Corp.

Among other revelations in the Vanity Fair article:

_ Rupert Murdoch has four votes in a family trust that controls nearly 40 percent of News Corp.'s voting stock, and his four eldest children, Prudence, Elisabeth, Lachlan and James, each have one. The arrangement was reached in a divorce settlement with his second wife, Anna Torv, in 1999. The vote count is integral to understanding how disagreements between the siblings and their father might affect a possible power struggle when Rupert Murdoch steps down.

_ His young daughters Grace and Chloe by third wife Wendi Murdoch have no votes in the trust, but each, along with Wendi, were given a $150 million disbursement from the trust, which suggests they are not likely to play an active role in the company in the future.

Questions over whether the Murdochs can maintain control of News Corp. have been the dramatic undercurrent in the phone-hacking scandal, which broke in July after it was revealed the company's News of the World tabloid had hacked into the cellphone voicemail of Milly Dowler, a missing 13-year-old later found murdered.

The company shut the tabloid and dropped its $12 billion bid for full control of British Sky Broadcasting.

James Murdoch, as head of News Corp.'s European and Asian operations, had approved payments to hacking victims including Gordon Taylor, the head of Britain's pro footballers association.

James Murdoch has insisted that he wasn't aware that hacking had gone beyond the work of a single private investigator when he approved the payments. But former News of the World lawyer Tom Crone and the newspaper's former editor, Colin Myler, have both said they informed him the hacking was more widespread back in 2008.