Billionaire Ted Turner said News Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rupert Murdoch will probably have to leave the helm of his media company after a phone-hacking scandal that began at one of its newspapers.
“I think he’s going to have to step down,” Turner, 72, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. “He hadn’t survived anything like this. This is serious.”
News Corp., based in New York, has come under fire this year over allegations its News of the World tabloid hacked into the voice mails of murder victims and paid police for stories. The public outcry forced the company to close the 168-year-old London newspaper and drop its 7.8 billion-pound ($12.2 billion) bid for full control of British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc.
Murdoch and his son James, deputy chief operating officer at News Corp., were called before U.K. parliament in July to answer questions about the scandal. The elder Murdoch’s statements that he didn’t know about phone-hacking or police payments aren’t sufficient, Turner said.
“Well, he should have known,” said Turner, who sold his Atlanta-based Turner Broadcasting, owner of CNN, TBS and the Cartoon Network, to Time Warner Inc. in 1996. “He was chairman of the board. He’s responsible. I took responsibility when I ran my company. You never heard me say, ‘Well, I didn’t know.’”
Jack Horner, a News Corp. spokesman, declined to comment.
Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, competes with units of News Corp. in providing financial news and information.
Turner and Murdoch battled for years as they built their media empires. News Corp. started the Fox News cable network in 1996 to challenge CNN, eventually eclipsing the Turner network. Turner criticized his rival’s tactics, saying in 2003 that Murdoch helped start the U.S. war against Iraq “because it’s good for his newspapers and good for his television stations.”
“I call it Murdoch’s War,” he said at the time.
Turner said in 2010 he had made peace with Murdoch, who he referred to as “the only real enemy I ever had.” He said he had sent Murdoch a note telling him the Wall Street Journal was at least as good as before News Corp. bought it and that he had bought Murdoch a bison burger at the New York branch of Ted’s Montana Grill, which Turner co-founded in 2002.
“We decided to bury the hatchet and not in each other’s heads,” Turner said at the time.
Turner said that now Murdoch, like everyone else, has the presumption of innocence as investigations into the phone-hacking continue.
The Parliament’s Culture Committee decided last week to recall James Murdoch after former employees questioned statements he made about his knowledge of the extent of hacking at the News of the World. In addition, News Corp.’s U.K. unit will pay 3 million pounds to settle claims News of the World hacked the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, a person with knowledge of the matter said this week.
“I’m very disappointed that this has occurred,” Turner said. “A major media company should definitely be following the law, that’s all. And when they break the law -- and certainly, it’s already been admitted that News of the World broke the law. The question is how big a scandal is it. And they’re investigating that now, and we’ll know soon enough.”