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7:07pm UK, Wednesday February 29, 2012
James Murdoch has stepped down as News International’s executive chairman to focus on expanding international television business.
The move follows Mr Murdoch’s relocation to News Corporation’s headquarters in New York as its deputy chief operating officer, which was announced last year.
He will no longer oversee the UK newspaper business that owns The Sun and The Times titles but remains chairman of BSkyB, a position he has held since 2007.
With the successful launch of The Sun on Sunday and new business practices in place across all titles, News International is now in a strong position to build on its successes in the future.
His father Rupert, the chairman and chief executive officer of News Corporation, said in a statement: “We are all grateful for James’ leadership at News International and across Europe and Asia, where he has made lasting contributions to the group’s strategy in paid digital content and its efforts to improve and enhance governance programs.
“He has demonstrated leadership and continues to create great value at Star TV, Sky Deutschland, Sky Italia, and BSkyB.
“Now that he has moved to New York, James will continue to assume a variety of essential corporate leadership mandates, with particular focus on important pay-TV businesses and broader international operations.”
James Murdoch added: “I deeply appreciate the dedication of my many talented colleagues at News International who work tirelessly to inform the public and am confident about the tremendous momentum we have achieved under the leadership of my father and Tom Mockridge.
“With the successful launch of The Sun on Sunday and new business practices in place across all titles, News International is now in a strong position to build on its successes in the future.”
James Murdoch is focusing on the television side of the business
He added: “I look forward to expanding my commitment to News Corporation’s international television businesses and other key initiatives across the company.”
News Corporation shares were 2% higher on Wall Street following the announcement.
Mr Murdoch has faced intense scrutiny in the wake of the News Of The World phone hacking scandal which saw him summoned to appear before MPs in the Commons twice.
It was claimed he had been told the hacking was more widespread at the Sunday tabloid than had originally been admitted.
But he insisted he had never seen an explosive email warning it was a wider problem and accused the former NOTW legal chief and its former editor of being “misleading”.
The Sunday tabloid was shut down last summer after the scandal reached a new intensity following revelations that Millie Dowler’s phone was targeted while she was missing.
A new Sunday edition of The Sun was launched last weekend and sold 3.25 million copies in its first day.
However, there have been fresh accusations at the Leveson inquiry into media ethics this week.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers said on Monday that evidence indicated there was a “culture” of illegal payments to public officials from The Sun journalists.
Also on Monday, singer Charlotte Church tore into the organisation after receiving a £600,000 settlement over phone hacking.
John Whittingdale, chairman of the culture select committee, told Sky News: “I think News Corp have adopted a strategy over the last few months where clearly they are trying to draw a line.
Jack Irvine, former News International executive
“All of those involved during the period when phone hacking was taking place or when payments were authorised to the victims of phone hacking that has led to the closure of the News Of The World and I think they want to demonstrate they are making a fresh start with fresh personnel.”
Labour MP Chris Bryant told Sky News the resignation was “long over-due”.
“On his watch, after all we’ve heard already, we know this has been the biggest single corporate corruption scandal since 1720 and really important British titles like The Sun have been brought into disrepute,” he said.
He added: “As with so many things in politics, it is often not the original criminality or dodginess that does for you, it is the cover-up and I think that is what is going to be found here.”