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February 29, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

James Murdoch

Without explanation, James Murdoch resigned today (Wednesday) as head of News International, the umbrella group for News Corp’s British newspaper business. His resignation came just days after the successful launch of a new NI title, The Sun on Sunday, which was directly overseen by his father, News Corp Chairman/CEO Rupert Murdoch, and Tom Mockridge, News International’s COO. James Murdoch’s absence from the U.K. during such a critical time had intensified the snowballing speculation about whether he would continue to wear the mantle as the apparent heir apparent to his father’s media empire. He has faced mounting criticism over his role in overseeing the activities of staff members of the now defunct News of the World and The Sun, and his resignation comes just two days after a Scotland Yard official heading an official inquiry into allegations of illegal acts committed by the two tabloids, charged that they had established a “network of corrupted officials” and developed a “culture of illegal payments” to them in exchange for “salacious gossip.” James Murdoch will remain deputy COO of News Corp and retain his titles at other divisions of the company. In a statement, the elder Murdoch said that “James will continue to assume a variety of essential corporate leadership mandates, with particular focus on important pay TV businesses and broader international operations.” James Murdoch said that he looked “forward to expanding my commitment to News Corporation’s international television businesses and other key initiatives across the company.” Neither Murdoch made any reference to the ongoing investigations, which have resulted in the arrests of 21 persons, including executives, editors, journalists, and private detectives employed by News International and/or its newspapers. In the latest development, a former co-anchor of the BBC program Crimewatch claimed that the News of the World placed her and her husband, a police investigator, under surveillance in an effort to subvert a murder investigation in which a detective with ties to the tabloid was the chief suspect. Jacqui Hames told the Leveson committee looking into the News International scandal that when she confronted the paper’s then-editor, Rebekah Brooks, about the surveillance, she was told that the reporters were following up a tip that she was having an affair with police official Dave Cook. Hames called the explanation “pathetic,” adding that at the time, she and Cook had been married for four years with two children.