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Mockridge, Sky Italia Chief, to Run Murdoch’s News International

Incoming News International CEO Tom Mockridge
Incoming News International CEO Tom Mockridge. Source: News Corporation via Bloomberg

Tom Mockridge, who turned Sky Italia Srl into Italy’s pay-television market leader, will replace Rebekah Brooks as chief executive officer of News Corp.’s News International publishing unit after a phone-hacking scandal.

Mockridge, a native of New Zealand, has been CEO of Sky Italia, News Corp.’s Italian satellite-television unit, since its 2003 debut. Since 2008 he has also overseen the Rupert Murdoch-owned company’s TV operations in Europe excluding the U.K., where British Sky Broadcasting Plc is based. Mockridge is a non-executive director at BSkyB and a member of Sky Deutschland AG’s supervisory board.

Mockridge, 56, began his career as a newspaper journalist in New Zealand and has also worked as a spokesman for the Australian government. He joined News Corp. in 1991 and worked for Ken Cowley, CEO of Australian newspaper company News Limited.

“Mockridge has done very well at Sky Italia,” said Claudio Aspesi, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein in London. “For a long time he ran one of the platforms for growth at News Corp.”

Sky Italia competes with Mediaset SpA, the broadcaster controlled by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Since 2008, the two companies have increasingly been at odds in their battle for domination of Italy’s TV market.

Berlusconi’s government in 2008 doubled the sales tax on pay-TV subscriptions to 20 percent, hurting Sky Italia. That year, Mediaset also began its own pay-TV operation.

Restoring Growth

After Sky Italia posted two straight quarters of losses in net subscriptions between 2009 and 2010 due to increased competition from Mediaset, Mockridge was able to restore growth. Sky Italia had a record 4.9 million subscribers at the end of March and in May the company forecast that it will have more than 5 million customers by the end of this summer.

Mockridge and Sky Italia also got into a dispute with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore in May as a broadcasting contract with Gore’s Current TV wasn’t renewed. Sky rejected comments Gore made in the Financial Times that the channel was dropped because of its political coverage in the U.S.

Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, competes with News Corp. and its Dow Jones division in providing financial news and data.

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