The cover story in this week’s Bloomberg Businessweek lays out the sweep and detail of the phone-hacking and corruption scandal that threatens to tear down Rupert Murdoch’s media empire. How far the rot spreads up the News Corp. chain of command is the question of the hour, but the very best you can say is that Murdoch and Co. are guilty of “abysmal” management. And that goes, too, for the way they’ve mishandled metastasizing scandal from day one, by initially refusing initially to apologize to victims or fully cooperate with investigators.
What happens next? A chastened Murdoch will (unthinkable!) prostrate himself before the British parliament on July 19, alongside his fallen, and recently arrested, lieutenant Rebekah Brooks and son James. That’s going to make for some good TV, but it’s unlikely to move the story along all that much. The widening investigation is going to drag out (excruciatingly, for Murdoch) over months, if not years, and it’s a safe bet that before this is over a few more high-flying executives, journalists, politicians, and police officials will be caught up in the dragnet. (Already, notes BBW, “It is safe to say that no one in British public life has been ennobled by the scandal.”)
Longer term, News Corp. – whose stock has lost $5 billion in value in the past two weeks – might get out of the U.K. newspaper business entirely. (Though Murdoch’s rags can destroy politicians and swing elections in Britain, they make up a tiny fraction of his holdings. “The newspaper business was such a small pimple for them. Now it’s become a hot potato,” an analyst tells BBW. “It would be great for the stock for them to exit.”) And of course, even more alarming for Murdoch, the U.S. Justice Department and other agencies to look into allegations of stateside wrongdoing, including that News Corp. journalists tried to hack into the phones of Sept. 11 victims and their families. First, though, comes this week’s grilling in Westminster, and some overdue damage limitation. “Murdoch did not forge himself into the chief executive officer of the 21st century’s dominant global media empire by issuing apologies,” notes the piece. “This time he might want to make an exception.”
• ‘Murdoch’s Mess’ [Bloomberg Businessweek]