Rebekah Brooks, until recently one of Rupert Murdoch’s key News International executives has been arrested by the British police. The fallout from the News of the World hacking and bribery scandal continues.
News of the World Was the World’s Largest Circulation English Newspaper
Ms. Brooks, as Chief Executive of News International, was at least partly responsible for the operations of the News of the World subsidiary, which was the largest English language newspaper in the world in terms of circulation, until closed by media mogul Rupert Murdoch last Sunday.
Murdock’s media empire has been under severe stress ever since it was discovered that News of the World reporters, editors, and executives, were reportedly involved in hacking phones and bribing police and others to gather exclusive information that was then used to write and publish articles in newspapers controlled by Murdoch.
Ms. Brooks was arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications and on suspicion of corruption. Rebekah Brooks resigned from News International on Friday as the deepening scandal widened involving not only News of the World but other entities in Murdoch’s media empire.
Ms. Brooks was Close to the Most Powerful People in Britain
BBC Business Editor Robert Peston said “It’s certainly the most extraordinary development. Rebekah Brooks is incredibly close to the most powerful people in the UK – the current prime minister, the previous prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. More or less every senior person of influence within Britain.”
Ms. Brooks is due to answer MPs questions on the hacking scandal. Now that she has been placed under arrest it is unlikely that she will appear before the Members of Parliament. The timing of her arrest has led to charges that the police do not want her to testify. Some members of the British police force, including investigators at Scotland Yard, are accused of accepting bribes to supply the newspaper with inside information.
One of the most powerful men in the world, Rupert Murdoch, is now in full crises management mode, as he attempts to limit further damage to his media empire. This will be difficult for Murdoch to carry out as US Congressman are now calling for an investigation into the practices of newspapers owned by Murdoch, including The Wall Street Journal. Telephone hacking and bribery by newspapers controlled by Murdoch are believed to have occurred on both sides of the Atlantic.
Rupert Murdoch, with help from top-notch executives like the now disgraced Rebekah Brooks, has over the years built what is probably the world’s greatest media empire. However, both News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch and his son James Murdoch, chairman of News International, are due to appear this coming week before MPs to answer what is sure to be a series of tough questions.
The fate of Murdoch’s media empire may rest in part on what Rebekah Brooks reports to the British police and his son’s and his own testimony before Members of Parliament. Even a man like Rupert Murdoch with his high-powered connections to government leaders all over the world must dread what this coming week might bring.
It takes years to develop such powerful connections to government and business leaders but only a few weeks, even days, to have these same leaders turn on you with a vengeance. If investigators link knowledge of phone hacking, bribery, and corruption to the top of the News Corp. pyramid Mr. Murdoch and his son may soon join Ms. Brooks in police custody.
Ms. Brooks former boss, Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, News Corporation. Photo by World Economic Forum.