Analysis: Brooks exit may quicken Murdoch's fall

Rupert Murdoch is more exposed after Rebekah Brooks' resignation
Rupert Murdoch is more exposed after Rebekah Brooks' resignation. Photo: Getty Images

Rebekah Brooks' resignation is part of a broader attempt by News Corp to save its UK holdings. It may not be any more successful than the botched PR disasters of the last fortnight.

By Alex Stevenson

Looking back over the last two tumultuous weeks it's possible to see two clear moves by Rupert Murdoch and co to halt the momentum of the phone-hacking scandal.

The first was the decision to close News of the World. This dramatic move, ending the 168-year reign of the 'world's greatest newspaper', was supposed to have isolated and contained the extent of the scandal.


That it failed is no longer in doubt. In this second week of what David Cameron called a "firestorm" News International's other newspapers, the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times, began to be tainted by allegations of wrongdoing, too.

The second move was the withdrawal from the BSkyB bid. While the decision to cull the tabloid was decisive, the abandonment of the £10 billion takeover was wrung out of Murdoch slowly and agonisingly. At first, the Murdochs attempted to shelve the issue until the scandal had died down. Only after parliament united against the deal was the bid finally abandoned.

Attempts to avoid having to give evidence to the Commons, culture, media and sport committee yesterday appeared in the same defiant, we've-got-something-to-hide vein. Faced with a summons, their resistance folded.

With the damage sustained as a result of the phone-scandal now spreading across to the US, with the news that the FBI is to investigate claims that 9/11 victims' phones were hacked, it's crystal clear that News Corp's handling of the scandal has only served to make it worse, not better.

The last couple of hours has revealed the third phase of the Murdochs' defence. Brooks' resignation is the cornerstone of this move. Her value to Rupert Murdoch over the years has been unquestioned; only last Sunday, when asked what his priority was, he pointed at her and said: "This one." Letting her go, an option she revealed had been under consideration for some time, will only have been agreed to in the hope that it will help the Murdoch empire recover.

To help achieve this goal, James Murdoch is presiding over a series of moves which - as the corporate cliché puts it - see News Corp attempt to retreat to a position of strength.

Advertisements are being placed in all national newspapers this weekend apologising to the nation for wrongdoing. Admissions that malpractice has taken place will have a limited impact, because the Murdochs are determined to rebut some of the more outlandish allegations made against them. Still, the hope will be an impression is given that the Murdochs are putting their hands up.

The problem will be fixed, they're promising. A new standards committee, headed by an "independent non-employee" according to Rupert Murdoch, will be established. Meanwhile Brooks is replaced by Tom Mockridge, whose experience lies more in TV than newspapers. This is no coincidence: it's a fresh start which is being sought.

First a bold sacrifice, then ineffective defiance. Now these two desperate ploys are being followed by what looks like a strategic retreat. With further damaging revelations expected next week, and that FBI investigation threatening the Murdochs' position in America, it seems probable the attempt at a well-ordered attempt to retreat towards contrition and renewal will, instead, turn into a rout.

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