Rebekah Brooks got her big start working as a secretary for the News of the World more than 20 years ago.
She became editor of the now-defunct publication at 31 years old, and CEO of News International — Murdoch’s entire UK newspaper empire — by 41.
Ever since the News of The World phone hacking scandal, there’s been speculation as to how she so quickly became one of the most powerful women in Britain.
In an excellent Vanity Fair article about Brooks, Suzanna Andrews takes a look at this, and quotes a former colleague who describes Brooks as “‘very, very, very ambitious,’ and prepared to go to great lengths ‘to get on.'” Here are a few other good takeaways from her piece about how Brooks rose to power:
She got close to lots of powerful people.
Brooks is a notorious social climber. She was close with former Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie, and with the current Prime Minister David Cameron, who “reportedly signed his letters to her ‘Love, David.'”
But most importantly, she got close to Rupert Murdoch, who sees her like family and “has been key in her rise.”
She was more ambitious than anybody else.
The British media describes Brooks’ opportunism as ‘terrifying’ and ‘phosphorescent,” according to VF:
[At 20 years old] she showed up at the Warrington office of The Post, a now-defunct national tabloid. As Graham Ball, then the features editor, recalled to the BBC, she approached him and said, “I am going to come and work with you on the features desk as the features secretary or administrator.” He told her that would be impossible, as he was moving the next week to work in the paper’s London office. On the following Monday, he showed up at his new London office “and there she was.”
She got people to do things for her.
A former News of The World reporter told Andrews that “she’d get you to do things. She had this charisma, this magnetic attraction. She would praise to high heaven, make you feel like you were on top of the world. It was only afterwards that you realised you were manipulated.”
She never stopped working.
“She was going at 150 all day,” a source told VF. “She was very intense. I thought she was a very insecure woman, actually, desperate for a lot of love and attention.” Another source said that “in the 15 years he has known her ‘I never heard her offer an opinion about anything in politics. She was interested in power.'”
Now Brooks is dealing with the ramifications of her quest for power, which led her to resign from her CEO job this summer. Although she may come out of the scandal technically unscathed, it’s worth noting that she didn’t have a rush of people come to her defence when the details of the scandal came out.
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