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Murdoch to Sell London Site of Newspaper Union Clashes

Updated on

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. is to sell its U.K. headquarters in London’s Wapping area, the site of clashes with the printing unions in the 1980s, after opting not to redevelop the site.

News Corp.’s U.K. News International division will sell the 15-acre site following a review of its real estate portfolio, the company said in a statement today. The company’s newspapers now operate from an adjacent site at Thomas More Square.

Murdoch’s newspapers, including the News of the World Sunday tabloid, which he closed this year amid phone-hacking allegations, moved from the traditional environs of Fleet Street to east London in 1986. Murdoch used the transition to Wapping to break the power of labor unions, which resisted new printing technology. Police fought strikers nightly outside the new plant as the newspapers were printed.

News Corp. had considered redeveloping its entire site in 2008 by bringing all its U.K. businesses including publisher Harper Collins together.

Other publishers such Trinity Mirror Plc, the publisher of the U.K.’s Daily Mirror tabloid, followed Murdoch’s move to east London. The Docklands area along the Thames River received an economic boost in the 1980s, when the government of former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher designated it as an enterprise zone.

East London Boom

The Canary Wharf development lured companies such as HSBC Holdings Plc and Barclays Plc. More than 93,000 people now work in the area, according to the website of Canary Wharf Group Plc.

Murdoch’s News of the World, which had run stories about celebrities, sex scandals and murders since it was founded in 1843, printed its final edition in Wapping on July 10. News Corp. owned the title since 1969 and it had Britain’s largest Sunday tabloid circulation with sales of 2.7 million in May before it closed.

The sensational scoops that made the tabloid so popular also led to its downfall. The phone-hacking scandal started in 2007 when the News of the World’s former royal reporter, Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator, were jailed for illegally accessing voicemail.

Rupert Murdoch and his son James were questioned by British lawmakers in July about the allegations. The scandal, which escalated that month after disclosures that the newspaper hacked the voice mails of murder and terror victims, has led to 15 arrests and prompted the company to drop a 7.8 billion-pound ($12.6 billion) bid for British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc.

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