You must sack James, Elisabeth Murdoch told Rupert
Published 03/11/2011 | 09:49
RUPERT Murdoch’s daughter approached her father days after the closure of the News of the World in July and told him that her younger brother James should "step aside", the magazine Vanity Fair has claimed.
The 80-year-old media mogul was “open to the idea” and told his son “maybe you should go”, but changed his mind the following morning, according to an article in the magazine.
The report also says that Mr Murdoch’s eldest four children — James, Elisabeth, Lachlan and Prudence — saw a family therapist earlier in the year to discuss the issue of who would succeed their father as the head of News Corporation.
The 11-page article provides an insider account of the ruptures that the phone hacking scandal has created in the powerful media family. It describes how they have been at odds over the phone hacking issue, with Elisabeth vocal in her thoughts about how it has been handled.
Miss Murdoch is said to have told her father that Rebekah Brooks, who was News International chief executive, and Les Hinton, the chief executive of the News Corp subsiduary Dow Jones who was News International chairman during the years that phone hacking was carried out, should resign.
Mr Hinton and Mrs Brooks, the former editor of the News of the World and The Sun, stepped down from their positions less than a week later.
However, the article claims that James was also close to leaving. It states that the family met in London after Rupert Murdoch arrived in Britain days after the announcement that the News of the World would close.
The article states: “Elisabeth blamed her brother for allowing the phone-hacking crisis to spiral out of control. After the meeting, Elisabeth approached her father and urged him to take control of the situation.
“She said Brooks and Hinton needed to resign (they eventually did) and that James needed to take a leave.
“Rupert was open to the idea – he and James had been at odds for months. Elisabeth had been urging her father to step in.
“The next morning, Elisabeth, at her father’s suggestion, confronted James and said he should step aside and let Rupert handle the crisis moving forward. The suggestion infuriated James.”
The article continues: “Rupert summoned Brooks and told her she should take a leave. He called Hinton and asked him to come to London. Rupert then spoke to James and suggested that he take a leave – 'Maybe you should go too,’ he said. But after a sleepless night he changed his mind.”
Sources confirmed to the Daily Telegraph that the meeting took place in James Murdoch’s Wapping office on Monday 11 July, one day after the final edition of the News of the World was published. The source claimed that while James’s resignation was discussed it was not seriously considered.
In July, The Daily Telegraph revealed that Miss Murdoch was “furious” with Mrs Brooks and thought she had “f***** the company”.
The article points to other suggestions of unease in the Murdoch family, claiming that the adult children attended therapy together over who would take over their father’s empire.
The piece says that in February Rupert Murdoch had considered relinquishing his News Corporation chief executive title and wanted Chase Carey, the chief operating officer to “groom” James for the top job.
The article continues: “Lachlan, Prudence and Elisabeth had discussed the move extensively with James. The siblings had been in family counselling with a psychologist over the issue of succession.
“They told James that if they worked together as siblings they could help him and their father have a better relationship.
“Together the siblings agreed that James was the best-suited to be the heir apparent but they also agreed he had to stop being so aggressive and alienating in his public postures.”
The article also provides an insight into the relations between extended members of the Murdoch clan. It says that Rupert Murdoch and Elisabeth’s husband, public relations guru Matthew Freud, enjoy and “uneasy” relationship.
The article quotes an unnamed News Corp executive who says: “Rupert hated Matthew…Rupert still doesn’t trust him.”
And it claims that Mr Freud and James Murdoch’s wife, Kathryn Hufschmid, are also on bad terms. The magazine quotes an unnamed source as saying: “She detests Matthew with a passion.”
A spokesman for Elisabeth Murdoch declined to comment on the article. A spokesman for News Corporation refused to comment.
The article paints Miss Murdoch as an unwilling heir apparent.
Miss Murdoch previously worked for one of her father’s companies when she joined satellite broadcasting company BSkyB in the mid 1990s.
She married Matthew Freud in 1997 and in May 2000 resigned from her father’s company to start her own production company.
The Vanity Fair article claims that she did not even tell her father she was resigning, instead faxing him a copy of the press release announcing her resignation shortly before she quit.
She started Shine Productions and she and her husband became firm members of the exclusive social group known as the Chipping Norton set, socialising with the Prime Minister and other famous faces.
She later sold the company to News Corp. and agreed to take a place on the board.
But the magazine piece claims that she went back on that decision when her husband, a public relations expert, warned her it would be a bad idea to involved herself as a senior member of the company during the phone hacking scandal.
However, despite having no official voice in News Corporation, the article alleges that she had a crucial say in the futures of certain executives as the scandal threatened to engulf her father’s empire.