Mark Leftly: Now Murdoch should let 'News of the World' go

James's decision to do right by BSkyB and quit should inspire his father to sell the disgraced title

James Murdoch's decision to quit the chairmanship of BSkyB was an extraordinarily personal wrench. Perhaps more than any other business in the family empire, the satellite broadcaster was the project of the prodigal son, not the imperious father.

Duncan Painter, a former BSkyB executive who comes across like The Office's David Brent but with knuckledusters, waxes lyrical about his former boss. At a conference for his new staff at trade magazine publisher Emap back in January, Painter said that it was Murdoch who set BSkyB the target to hit what appeared to be an overly ambitious 10 million subscribers. Painter told the Emap sales force that they could only be successful if they were similarly driven and, if they weren't, would be shown the door. Ruthlessness: a true trait of News Corp disciples.

Murdoch set that goal in 2004 and BSkyB went on to hit his deadline in 2010. According to Painter, Murdoch didn't really have a plan, but he sure as hell had a vision and his BSkyB troops were suitably inspired to ensure that our streets are now full to the brim with satellite dishes.

Despite that extraordinary success, BSkyB investors have been openly discussing Murdoch's future since the height of the phone hacking scandal last year. More than a third of them voted against his reappointment to the board in November.

Aside from an intriguing but slightly sketchy BBC Panorama investigation into the demise of ITV Digital and admissions last week of occasional email hacking " inthe public interest", BSkyB has not been dragged into the scandals that engulfed News International, the News Corp subsidiary behind The News of the World.

However, shareholders were worried that Murdoch's continued presence had the potential to bring unwarranted speculation and suspicions to the business. Murdoch recognised this and admitted last week that, as chairman, he risked becoming a "lightning rod" for negative publicity: "As attention continues to be paid to past events at News International, I am determined that the interests of BSkyB should not be undermined by matters outside the scope of this company."

That this was a belated decision is undeniable: his leadership had already hurt BSkyB. The scandal derailed News Corp's ambitions to snap up the 61 per cent of the company it didn't already own, and shares have fallen from £8.50 last summer to well under seven quid today.

However, Murdoch junior did the right thing, eventually. And, given the 39-year-old's pride in what he had achieved at BSkyB, it is understandable he should wait to see if the storm would subside so that he could carry on.

Now it is time for his father, Rupert, to make a similarly gutsy choice that will hurt him both emotionally and commercially: he must sell The News of the World title, which he bought more than four decades ago, so that a new owner might restore its former glories. NOTW is one of the most important rags in the history of not just British, but global newspapers. We shouldn't allow a disregard for tabloid hackery to cloud our judgements. The 168-year-old paper had such a rich history of scoops, from the Profumo affair to exposing Jeffrey Archer's courtroom lies, that had everything to do with journalistic excellence and nothing to do with hacking.

Even in its final weeks, the paper was hugely successful financially: the brand wasn't hurt by the scandal; the management team and the journalists allegedly behind that culture were. This was a true working-class newspaper that at times sold more than any of its peers, anywhere in the world. NOTW was bigger than the scandal – at least it should have been.

The right thing would be to sell it on to one of the parties that have tentatively asked about buying it. The well known example was a consortium fronted by former Sunday Express editor Sue Douglas, but there has also been Middle Eastern interest.

News Corp's ruthless streak means that this is highly unlikely to happen – there have been plenty of rebuffed approaches to take Today since Murdoch senior closed it in 1995. A NOTW resurrection would eat into sales of the recently launched Sun on Sunday, and the group is suing Saddam Hussein's lawyer, Giovanni Di Stefano, who is apparently using the title for an online venture. This suggests that the Murdochs will earnestly protect a title they no longer even publish.

But, if they're still in the mood to do the right thing, News Corp will give someone else a shot at running one of the most important newspapers to have ever hit the printing presses.

Margareta Pagano is away

Private equity in the UK has much to fear from a Romney presidential campaign

A couple of weeks back we reported that British private equity executives are growing increasingly worried that one of their own, Mitt Romney, will snaffle the Republican Party presidential nomination.

Little wonder: the US budget plan he has endorsed in his campaign to take on Barack Obama is pure slash-and-burn. Are these the kind of words that a presidential hopeful who has been accused of making his vast fortune through job-cutting wants to be associated with?

Whether Romney, right, created more jobs than were lost when he was in charge of Bain Capital is, unfortunately, not the point. In the 2008 election, one of the reasons he lost the nomination to John McCain was because of such claims by the media and his political opponents.

This hurt UK private equity at the time, as the industry was under close scrutiny from both domestic and European authorities for being too secretive. A failing Romney campaign gave the bashers their most high-profile example of a rich man in a bespoke suit who had allegedly emptied the pockets of the working man and woman.

Private equity has been replaced by the banks as the evil capitalist institution of choice in the wake of the financial crisis. However, the industry fears that Obama, a superior campaigner to Romney's unelectable Republican rivals, will get his teeth into old accusations that private equity equals asset stripping.

Romney's support of Congressman Paul Ryan's budget plan, which proposes a decade of almightily tough spending cuts, and has been vilified by Obama as "social Darwinism", only reinforces that image.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Market Risk & Control Manager

Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Head of Audit

To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam