Murdoch family rivalry intensifies as reshuffle looms
THE turmoil at News International has prompted intense speculation that Rupert Murdoch may be about to carry out a corporate reshuffle within his own family.
Until yesterday, the Murdochs had presented a united front in their support for Rebekah Brooks and their public statements about the crisis.
But the first clear indications of a rift in the family came when it was reported that Rupert Murdoch's daughter Elisabeth had told friends that Ms Brooks had "f***** the company". She denied making the comment, but her anger at Ms Brooks's handling of the scandal has been credited by industry insiders as the real reason the News International chief executive resigned.
Perhaps more importantly, by distancing herself from Ms Brooks, Ms Murdoch, who is in line to be given a seat on the board of News Corp, could also be putting herself in a strong position to replace her brother James as chairman of News International.
Shareholders in News Corp have already hinted they might push for his removal if he is tainted by the scandal.
Prince al-Waleed bin Talal of the Saudi royal family, who is the second-largest shareholder in News Corp, said he would not deal with "a company that has a lady or a man that has any sliver of doubts on his or her integrity".
James Murdoch faces a huge test when he appears before a committee of British MPs on Tuesday, where he is likely to be asked why he authorised at least one substantial payment to a victim of phone hacking in return for signing a gagging clause.
His position is already thought to have been weakened by the closure of the 'News of the World'.
A further hint of trouble within the family came in the leader column of yesterday's 'Times', which contained such a savage rebuke of the proprietor and his son that insiders believe it was authorised by Rupert Murdoch himself.
The leader describes the letters sent by Rupert and James Murdoch to MPs, in which they said they were unable to attend a question and answer session, as "a serious mistake".
James Murdoch's letter, in which he offered to attend in August, when parliament will be in recess, was "unnecessarily provocative", it said.
Both men later said they would attend a parliamentary session that could decide which Murdoch will be at the helm of News International in the long term. (©Daily Telegraph, London)