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James Murdoch leaves boards of British newspapers' parent firms

November 23, 2011 |  8:51 am

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News Corp.'s chief operating officer, James Murdoch, has resigned from the boards of the companies that operate the British newspapers the Sun and the Times.

Murdoch remains chairman of News International, the division that controls News Corp. publishing operations in Britain. However, he turned over day-to-day operations of the group to Tom Mockridge, who was named chief executive following the resignation this summer of former New International chief executive and News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks.

The 38-year-old Murdoch, son of powerful News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, stepped down in September as a director of Times Newspapers, which publishes the Times and the Sunday Times, and of News Group Newspapers, which owns the Sun tabloid and formerly published the now-defunct News of the World, which is at the center of the British phone-hacking scandal.

A person familiar with the matter described these units as holding companies that exist primarily for accounting purposes. The change comes as James Murdoch prepares to move to New York, as was announced in March with his elevation to the No. 3 News Corp. job.

"Following the appointment of Tom Mockridge as CEO of News International, in September James Murdoch stepped down from the boards of a number of News International subsidiary companies, including News Group Newspapers and Times International newspapers," the company said in a statement Wednesday. "He remains chairman of News International Group and director of Times Newspapers Holdings, the holding company of the Times Newspapers."

The development comes against the backdrop of a parliamentary investigation into allegations that the News of the World and other newspapers hacked phone messages left for members of the royal family, celebrities and crime victims in pursuit of salacious scoops. Murdoch has been called twice by the committee investigating the matter to answer questions about what he knew of the illicit conduct.

The controversy has sparked calls for press reforms in Britain from, among others, actor and phone-hacking victim Hugh Grant.

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-- Dawn C. Chmielewski

Photo: James Murdoch looks on during the Digital Life Design conference on January 25, 2011 in Munich, Germany. Credit: Miguel Villagran / Getty Images.

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