News Corp. Deputy Chief Operating Officer James Murdoch resigned from the boards of the companies that run The Sun and The Times newspapers as he steps away from the U.K. publishing unit.
Murdoch, 38, will remain on the Times’ editorial board and stay on as chairman of News International Ltd., the company said in a statement today. He was replaced on the boards by Tom Mockridge, chief executive officer of the News International newspaper unit.
Murdoch left News Group Newspapers Ltd. on Sept. 19, the day when News Corp. was said to agree to a 3 million-pound ($4.7 million) settlement for the family of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, whose phone was hacked by the News of the World tabloid. The scandal has damaged career prospects for Murdoch, once seen as heir apparent to News Corp. Chief Executive Officer Rupert Murdoch, his father.
The move may be a step toward his resignation from News International altogether, said Claire Enders, an analyst at Enders Analysis in London.
“Other matters, in particular the matter of the extent of the phone hacking, are going to continue to surround James Murdoch, whether he has a position at News International or not,” Enders said. “A path to the top is not clear right now.”
Mockridge joined after News International ousted former CEO Rebekah Brooks because of her involvement in a phone-hacking scandal that led New York-based News Corp. to shutter the News of the World tabloid and shelve a 7.8 billion-pound bid for a stake in British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc.
While News International has said that Murdoch came to the company after reporters ceased hacking, police suspect that the illegal practice may have continued until 2009, according to revelations at a review of media practices led by Judge Brian Leveson.
Murdoch quit his positions at Times Newspapers Holdings Ltd., which owns the Times newspaper, and News Group Newspapers, which publishes The Sun. He left the Times post on Sept. 13, according to a filing.
“This does not lessen in any way the need for him to answer questions or take responsibility for what happened on his watch,” said Labour lawmaker Harriet Harman. “The concerns about whether he is a fit and proper person to run BSkyB remain.”