So why did Rupert Murdoch‘s top executive Rebekah Brooks — the woman he thinks of as a daughter, and whom he has stood by as the phone-hacking scandal threatens to take down News Corp — resign today?
Brooks was head of News of the World when the worst of the phone-hacking took place.
When Murdoch shuttered the paper last week, its staff was irate over the fact they had lost their jobs and she had managed to keep hers.
Even so, earlier this week amidst calls for her resignation from parliament, including Prime Minister David Cameron, Rupert stood firmly behind Brooks. This followed last week’s speculation that he’d shut down his beloved News of the World in an effort to spare her.
So again, why now?
One answer is Rupert is running out of scape goats.
The turning point may have come last night when Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal al-Saud, News Corp’s second-largest shareholder, called for Brooks to step down.
In a interview on the BBC bin Talal al-Saud said: “”For sure she has to go, you bet she has to go. Ethics to me is very important. I will not tolerate to deal with a company that has a lady or a man that has any sliver of doubts on her or his integrity.”
The Prince may have been voicing the concerns of many shareholders. The NYT reports that “once the scandal spread beyond Mr. Murdoch’s British outpost, major investors in the much bigger parent company, News Corporation, began questioning what was going on.”
However, Murdoch chronicler Michael Wolff speculates that Talal al-Saud would never have issued the call if he hadn’t been instructed to do so by Murdoch himself.
Tweets Wolff: “No way Prince Alwaleed was not speaking from Murdoch sanctioned script. So new strategy: put it on Rebekah, distance [James Murdoch] and [Rupert Murdoch] from NOTW.”
Additionally, yesterday News Corp hired public relations powerhouse Edelman to come in and deal with the imploding crisis and Wolff sees a series of subsequent developments as a direct result: “It’s PR driven now: [Rupert Murdoch]’s WSJ interview; Prince Alwaleed’s int; [Rebekah Brooks’] resignation. We’ll hear from James very soon.”
And: “Reasonable assumption: Edelman said we won’t take business if Brooks isn’t fired.”
So Brooks is now the scapegoat.
Which makes sense when you consider that following News Corp’s decision to drop the $12 billion BSkyB deal on Wednesday there was a great deal of speculation that heir apparent James Murdoch might be on his way out.
Rupert put an end to that yesterday in his phone interview with the WSJ, defending James’ handling of the scandal: “I think he acted as fast as he could, the moment he could.”
He did not mention Rebekah Brooks.
Regardless, this is far from over. Both Murdochs and Brooks will be testifying before Parliament next Tuesday and yesterday the FBI launched an investigation into allegations NOTW reporters may have hacked into 9/11 victims.
Next question, now that Brooks is gone and there is one less person between the scandal and the Murdochs, who is next to take the fall? At the moment all signs point to Les Hinton, current head of Dow Jones.
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