Team Murdoch: The men coaching Rupert for his date with MPs

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Rupert Murdoch has been taking advice from one of the world's leading media trainers as he prepares for tomorrow's grilling by MPs over his company's handling of the phone-hacking scandal.

The 80-year-old media mogul has engaged the services of New York-based Steven Rubenstein, who has worked with Robert De Niro and coached David Letterman when the chat-show host was seeking to rescue his career from the scandal of a string of affairs with colleagues.

Mr Rubenstein flew to London last week to start work with Mr Murdoch, who is staying at his apartment in St James's Palace in London. It will be the first time in the six-year hacking affair that the News Corp chairman has given evidence to Parliament.

Also on "Team Murdoch" is the British media lawyer Dan Tench, whose past successes include the overruling of the Football League's refusal to allow Wimbledon Football Club to relocate to Milton Keynes. Mr Tench is a partner at the London legal firm Olswang and he is advising News International on drawing up an internal code of practice in response to the phone-hacking scandal.

Mr Murdoch is not known to be a confident performer in front of the cameras and usually prefers to confide in newspapers in his own News Corp stable. His most recent interview was last week with The Wall Street Journal, which he owns, telling the paper that his London executives had made only "minor mistakes" in their handling of the hacking affair. That interview was largely interpreted as an attempt to protect the reputation of his son James, the News Corp chairman in Europe, who will be giving evidence to MPs with his father tomorrow.

Michael Wolff, Rupert Murdoch's biographer, said the exchanges were likely to be "combustible", predicting that the media mogul would find it difficult not to react to aggressive questioning. "When he starts talking he can't control himself, that will be a problem on Tuesday," he said. Usually, "he will only give interviews to his own people and he talks to them like they are employees".

Mr Rubenstein, who is also part of a family business and works with his father, Howard, one of America's leading communications strategists, will attempt to help Mr Murdoch avoid impetuous responses. He is credited with having helped Letterman salvage his reputation after being blackmailed over his affairs. The chat-show host retained the support of his audience by talking in an open and self-deprecating way about the issue during a series of shows.

Few observers expect much humility from Mr Murdoch, although he made a series of apologies to the family of the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler on Friday.

Mr Murdoch has appeared twice before US government hearings, but being at Westminster on Tuesday represents his biggest test in a visual medium that – through his entrepreneurial skill and investment – he has done so much to develop. At BSkyB he helped pioneer technological advances such as high-definition and 3D TV. His Fox TV network captivates American audiences with shows such as The X Factor. Now it is Mr Murdoch's turn to perform on camera – he is taking the best advice he can find.