Embattled Murdoch vows to launch Sunday tabloid
Published 18/02/2012 | 05:00
NEWSPAPER magnate Rupert Murdoch showed no sign of being cowed by the series of scandals that have rocked his media empire as he flew into London yesterday pledging to launch a Sunday edition of the 'Sun' tabloid.
Even more provocatively, he cocked another snook at the establishment by putting all suspended staff back on his payroll.
The moves were seen as a bid to fight off the biggest challenges to his more than 40 years as a newspaper proprietor in Britain.
He was in London to reassure employees after the company supplied information to police which led to the arrest of some of the most senior journalists on the paper in an investigation into illegal payments to public officials.
In a typically bullish move, the 80-year-old said that News Corp would soon launch a 'Sun on Sunday' to replace the 'News of the World', which was abruptly shut last year after an inquiry into telephone hacking to generate stories.
"I've worked alongside you for 43 years to build the 'Sun' into one of the world's finest papers," Australian-born Mr Murdoch said to staff.
"My continuing respect makes this situation a source of great pain for me, as I know it is for each of you."
Mr Murdoch later visited the newsroom floor of the 'Sun' with his eldest son Lachlan, prompting speculation about what that meant for son James, who had been seen as the heir apparent at News Corp before the hacking scandal blew up.
A source familiar with the situation played down the significance of the appearance, saying James had been busy and wanted Lachlan at what was likely to be a difficult meeting.
The latest arrests sparked the most bitter row within News Corp's British newspaper arm since a radical overhaul of print unions sparked violent clashes in the 1980s.
Coming on the back of the closure of his 168-year-old 'News of the World', the latest row prompted many to consider whether Murdoch would quit the British media altogether.
"I am staying with you all, in London, for the next several weeks to give you my unwavering support," Mr Murdoch said. "I am confident we will get through this together."
Mr Murdoch bought the 'Sun' in 1969 and swiftly turned it into a sensationalist daily tabloid, renowned for political clout, campaigns, entertainment stories, sex scandals, banner headlines and topless 'Page Three' girls.
But executives at his corporate headquarters in New York, who watched in dismay last year as the phone hacking scandal dragged down the company's reputation and share price, do not share his love of newspapers.
A secretive Management and Standards Committee (MSC) set up by Mr Murdoch has handed information to police after trawling through 300 million emails, expense accounts and notebooks in the hunt for signs of criminality.
Mr Murdoch said the committee would continue to work with the police and illegal activity would not be tolerated. But he said those journalists who had been arrested would have their suspensions lifted and could return to work.
"Finally, some good news," one member of staff said.