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Murdochs will testify to Parliament, Mockridge gets hot seat

July 15, 2011

Rupert and James Murdoch dramatically changed their minds and dropped their resistance to appearing before the Media Select Committee next Tuesday. The Committee had taken the very unusual step of issuing a Parliamentary Summons.

Meanwhile, on Friday morning  after two weeks of support from the Murdochs, Rebekah Brooks, CEO News International has resigned. She said: “I have believed that the right and responsible action has been to lead us through the heat of the crisis. However my desire to remain on the bridge has made me a focal point of the debate. This is now detracting attention from all our honest endeavours to fix the problems of the past.”

Brooks will be replaced immediately by Tom Mockridge, currently CEO of Sky Italia.

Mockridge had been Chief Executive Officer since launch in 2003. He was also Chief Executive European Television of News Corporation, overseeing News Corporation’s television operations in Europe, outside of the UK.

Laura Cioli, Chief Operating Officer, and Domenico Labianca, Chief Finance Officer, will assume Mockridge’s responsibilities on an interim basis, reporting to James Murdoch, Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Chairman and CEO, International, News Corporation.

Prior to joining Sky Italia, Mockridge was Chief Executive of the publicly-listed New Zealand company, Independent Newspapers, and Chairman of Sky New Zealand. He previously held various roles at Star Group Limited and spent three years as Chief Executive Officer of Foxtel, News Corporation’s Australian pay TV joint venture. Mockridge joined News Corporation in January 1991, working for Ken Cowley, Chairman and Chief Executive of the Australian newspaper company News Limited. Before that, he was a spokesperson in the Australian government. He started his career as a newspaper journalist in New Zealand. Mockridge is also a non-executive director of BSkyB and a member of the Supervisory Board of Sky Deutschland.

James Murdoch described Mockridge as “an outstanding executive with unrivalled experience across our journalism and television businesses,” suggesting that he had proven himself to be a very effective operator in his time at Sky Italia. “Under his leadership, Sky has grown to become one of the world’s most successful pay-TV businesses, reaching close to five million homes and launching channels like TG24 which has set a new standard for independent journalism in Italy. I believe that Tom is the best person to move the company forward to a brighter future.”

Meanwhile, BSkyB counts the cost of the failed takeover. It will pocket £38.5 million cash as the product of a break clause with News Corp, but this is dwarfed by the hundreds of millions wiped off the stock market value by the failure of the bid. It is now trading around 700p – the level of News Corp’s original bid – against the 825p average of the last three months.

Results are due on 29 July and are expected to reflect another strong year for the firm, but with no deal in prospect the share price is likely to stick in the 700s.

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