In Depth

James Murdoch quits Times and Sun boards: er, sort of

Murdoch Jnr leaves directorships of two publishing subsidiaries – but keeps all his key roles. Why?

James Murdoch

TODAY’S NEWS that James Murdoch has quit as a director of the News International subsidiaries that publish his father's remaining UK newspapers - The Times, The Sunday Times and The Sun - brought an excited reaction from newsroom rivals and within political circles this afternoon.

Had the 39-year-old finally let the phone hacking scandal get to him? Had Tom Watson MP, scourge of the Dirty Digger and his progeny, claimed his first scalp?

“James Murdoch departures may herald his exit from papers” ran the headline in the Evening Standard, which posited the thrilling idea that Murdoch Jnr’s decision to resign from the two publishing companies - Times Newspapers Limited and News Group Newspapers - “also raises questions about parent company News Corporation's commitment to its newspapers”.

Not so fast. Whatever else he did today, James Murdoch did not give up his truly influential roles. He remains executive chairman of News International, chairman of BSkyB (at least until next week’s shareholders’ meeting), deputy chief operating officer of News Corp in New York and keeps his place on The Times editorial board.

So what has he given up and why? As The Guardian reports today, News Group Newspapers is the firm named in a string of lawsuits brought by alleged victims of phone hacking. “It is,” says the paper, “the business unit that anybody wanting to sue either the Sun or the News of the World would have to cite as a defendant in a legal case.”

Times Newspapers Limited is, by extension, the company you’d sue if you ever wanted to, say, bring a breach of privacy case concerning either of the Times titles.

So, they’re both companies James, as Rupert’s heir apparent, might well be happy to keep a distance from.

Though as the media analyst Claire Enders said today, "He can step down from all these positions but he won't stop any of the other issues surrounding his stewardship."

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