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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
people
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
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

Techincal Accountant-Insurance-Bank-£550/day

£475 - £550 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Technical Accountant-Insuran...

Sales Performance Manager, Gloucester - £290 p/day

£200 - £290 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Sales Performance Manager, Key Ba...

Junior Database developer (SQL, T-SQL, Excel, SSRS, Crystal rep

£25000 - £30000 per annum + bonus+benefits+package: Harrington Starr: Junior D...

Java/Calypso Developer

£600 - £800 per day: Harrington Starr: Java/Calypso Developer Java, Calypso, ...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment