Rupert Murdoch did not know Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson had been having an affair for years, and allegedly “went nuts” when he was given details before the phone hacking trial started.
His alleged reaction to learning that two of his former executives, who had both edited The News Of World, had been involved in a physically intimate relationship for up to seven years, was initially to order that neither of them would ever work for a Murdoch-owned company again.
Details of the alleged outrage by the global boss of News Corp was discussed with individuals who attended a recent celebration in Australia for the 50th anniversary of The Australian newspaper and by others closely connected to “News” – the abbreviation used in Australia for any company connected to Mr Murdoch.
In advance of a rumoured reorganisation of senior personnel in News Corp Australia (NCA), the Murdoch company’s main commercial rivals, Fairfax Media, recently reported that Mrs Brooks was possibly on her way to a senior post in the southern hemisphere with News
However sources in Australia told The Independent that Mr Murdoch regarded the secret affair between his two former NOTW editors as a form of “betrayal” that damaged his company and that any appointment inside News Corp Australia for Mrs Brooks would be a “spectacular change of heart”.
Prior to the disclosure of the Brooks-Coulson affair, Rupert Murdoch is said to have been prepared to sacrifice the future of his bestselling Sunday tabloid to protect the reputation of Mrs Brooks. When the hacking scandal broke in 2011, Mr Murdoch was asked in public about his immediate priorities. He gestured towards to Mrs Brooks and simply said “this one”.
Mrs Brooks, the former chief executive of News Corp’s UK Print Division, News International, is believed to have received a severance deal worth close to £16 million when she resigned as CEO in 2011.
The deal is said to have included fees to run a private office outside NI, funds for private staff, and crucially a designated sum for anticipated legal fees to fight the charges that were brought against her on hacking, paying public officials and an allied cover-up.
Last month a jury at the Old Bailey cleared Mrs Brooks, her husband Charlie, and her former secretary Cheryl Carter of all charges.
The legal costs for the eight-month hacking trail were described by the judge, Mr Justice Saunders as “astronomical". Mrs Brooks’ substantial defence team, led by Jonathan Laidlaw QC, was the most expensive of all the defendants in the trial.
During her lengthy testimony at the Old Bailey, Mrs Brooks said that Rupert Murdoch preferred his editors to have a low profile rather than seeking celebrity status by constantly appearing on television. She also described her own personal life as “a bit of a car crash for many years”.
She said there had been three period of “physical intimacy” with Andy Coulson.
During the trial the jury were read extracts from a letter written by Mrs Brooks in 2004. She had been editor at the NOTW between 2000 and 2003 and at the point in her life was editing The Sun.
Coulson – jailed for 18 months after being found guilty of conspiracy to illegally access voicemails – was then editing the NOTW. He would later move on to become David Cameron’s communications chief in 10 Downing Street.
The letter was found on a laptop computer seized at Mrs Brooks’ riverside apartment in London by police investigating hacking. It had never been sent.
The highly emotional love-letter contained descriptions by Mrs Brooks of her closeness to Coulson. She said she told him everything, confided in him, sought his advice and stated ”I love you, care about you, worry about you”.
In her defence testimony, Mrs Brooks said the affair had begun in 1998 and lasted till 2006.
Mrs Brooks’ lawyers, Kingsley Napley, were contacted by The Independent and asked if she had comment to make on when Mr Murdoch was told of the affair and whether or not she was about to move to Australia. Mrs Brooks was not available for comment.