Hugh Grant Sues News Corp. Over Phone Hacking by Tabloid

Hugh Grant, the British actor who told a media-ethics inquiry the press had become “toxic” in its pursuit of celebrity gossip, sued News Corp. (NWSA)’s U.K. unit over claims its News of the World tabloid hacked his phone.

The lawsuit was filed yesterday in London, his lawyer Mark Thomson said in an e-mail. Grant, 52, joins Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, and 34 other victims who lodged claims yesterday, racing to beat the deadline for the civil suit which won’t begin before May 1.

Grant, who starred in the comedy “Notting Hill,” told the inquiry in November that phone hacking was probably used by other publishers. He said he’d suffered numerous media intrusions, such as a break-in at his apartment in 1995 and tabloids running stories about private medical treatments.

The now-defunct tabloid targeted some of the best-known celebrities, including U.S. actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and England soccer player Wayne Rooney, prosecutors said in July. Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive officer of News Corp.’s U.K. publisher, and seven others were charged with conspiring between 2000 and 2006 to hack the phone messages of more than 600 people.

Rupert Murdoch, chairman of New York-based News Corp., closed the News of the World in July 2011 to help contain public anger after revelations the tabloid hacked the phone messages of murdered British schoolgirl Milly Dowler, who went missing in 2002 and became the subject of front-page stories.

Daisy Dunlop, spokeswoman for London-based News International, declined to comment. Thomson would only comment to confirm the suit had been filed.

Single Case

The civil lawsuits are being handled as a single case to establish a common set of claims and facts about the hacking conspiracy and set standards for payments of money damages. News International faces a second trial scheduled for sometime after May 1 if the newer cases aren’t settled.

Welsh priest Richard Reardon, whose phone messages were hacked to get scoops about parishioner and British pop star Charlotte Church, sued yesterday. The singer, who also sued, settled her case in February for 600,000 pounds ($974,000) after the company admitted targeting her starting when she was 16, hacking her father’s phone and harassing her mother.

Among the dozens of new victims that emerged today are psychic spoon-bender Uri Geller, former England soccer captain Tony Adams and long-serving Labour member of parliament Geoffrey Robinson.

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Larson in London at elarson4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

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