News Corp. executives are contemplating a future without James Murdoch, Reuters reports.
Murdoch had long been seen as the natural successor to his father, Rupert. But he has been deeply wounded by the phone hacking scandal and, according to Peter Lauria, senior executives are beginning to think about what might happen if he wants to "step aside."
In a conference call with investors and the press earlier in August, Rupert Murdoch said that, in the event of an emergency, COO Chase Carey would take over the company rather than James—a possible sign that James' star has fallen within News Corp.
"I'm waiting for the moment when he says, 'What the hell am I doing here, I need a breather,'" a source told Lauria. "And I wouldn't be surprised if the people who are speaking to him and watching him aren't wondering if the time has come for him to drop the (corporate) act."
Murdoch has been ensnared in the scandal ever since he signed off on a huge payment to Gordon Taylor, the head of the British soccer player's union, to stave off a lawsuit over phone hacking. He has insisted that he made the payments without knowing why they were being made, and that he knew nothing about the widespread phone hacking at the News of the World until late 2010. That assertion has been the subject of major disputes between Murdoch and top former News of the World officials, who have claimed that Murdoch knew full well why he was authorizing the payments to Taylor.
On Tuesday, a letter from Clive Goodman, the jailed former News of the World reporter, cast further doubts on Murdoch's pleas of ignorance, since it dates from 2007 and implicates many top journalists on the paper. The parliamentary committee investigating phone hacking then said it is likely that he will have to make a second appearance before it to further explain his knowledge of phone hacking.
News Corp. insisted to Reuters that Murdoch was staying exactly where he is, and that there are no plans to have him step aside.