Rupert Murdoch. Photo Reuters
Rupert Murdoch has turned from one straight-talking New
Zealander to another, appointing pay-TV executive Mike Darcey
to run his troubled British newspaper arm through what is
likely to be another tumultuous period for the Sun and Times
Darcey will become chief executive of News International at
the start of the year, before a series of high-profile
criminal trials stemming from a phone hacking scandal and a
group restructuring that could expose the papers to a harsh
The fact Murdoch has tapped a former economist known for
signing commercial deals and boosting subscription revenues
in his role at BSkyB reflects the changing pressures on the
newspaper business, analysts and colleagues said.
"He's meticulous in his thinking, he's extraordinarily cool
and calm and he does not get emotional," media consultant
Claire Enders said. "He's a known quantity to investors who
follow BSkyB and he will be a reassuring presence.
"But it's brave of him to take on that role."
Murdoch revealed the appointment of the 47-year-old Darcey,
who has no newspaper experience, as part of a wider
announcement detailing how he will split his News Corp media
conglomerate into two publicly-traded companies.
The more profitable pay-TV and film assets will be held in
one entertainment arm called Fox, while the smaller
publishing division will retain the News Corp name and
include newspapers such as the British titles, the Wall
Street Journal, the New York Post and the HarperCollins book
The publishing arm will be run by Robert Thomson, the current
managing editor of the Wall street Journal and editor in
chief of its publisher Dow Jones.
"While Thomson is a newspaper man through and through, Darcey
is the hands-on commercial guy," one former colleague of
Darcey's told Reuters. "He will be the perfect foil to Robert
"Commercial deals, strategic decisions, wholesale
partnerships, regulation and policy dealings are his bread
and butter. He's pushed Sky's content online and via mobile
phones and those are all skills needed by newspapers right
Darcey will need to tackle the continued fall out from the
phone hacking scandal, a string of arrests of staff at the
daily Sun tabloid over illegal payments, and the structural
changes hitting the wider newspaper industry.
Like all newspapers, the News International titles have been
hit by falling advertising and circulation revenues in recent
years, while they will have to prepare for a tougher
regulatory environment after a public inquiry called for a
new law to make sure a scandal like phone hacking can never
As part of a smaller publishing division, the Sun and Times
titles could also be exposed to far greater scrutiny of their
cost base by investors, unlike when they were part of the
wider News Corp with its $58 billion market valuation.
Darcey, who is married with two children, will replace Tom
Mockridge, another former Murdoch TV executive and New
Zealander, parachuted in to run News International at the
height of the hacking scandal last year. He quit on Sunday.
"To be direct, the reason I am leaving is that the new
structure does not offer me a role I am comfortable with," he
said in an email to staff seen by Reuters, in reference to
the fact he lost out on the top publishing job to Thomson.
"After 22 years with the company in five countries, I feel I
have made enough of a contribution to make a personal choice
Mockridge joined News International at a time of great
upheaval, as the company struggled to get to grips with a
scandal that damaged the reputation and value of News Corp,
resulted in numerous arrests and tarnished the names of a
string of senior executives.
His predecessor Rebekah Brooks was forced to step down after
the now-defunct News of the World Sunday tabloid admitted it
had hacked into phones on an industrial scale to generate
salacious stories. She has since been arrested in connection
with phone hacking and other allegations.
Unlike Brooks, who counted former and current prime ministers
as close friends, Darcey is unlikely to adopt a high-profile
political role in Britain.
Mockridge brought stability to the Sun and Times newspapers
by maintaining a low profile and introducing a raft of
digital initiatives that saved costs and boosted digital
Sources inside News International's Wapping headquarters near
the Tower of London on Monday said uncertainty was felt
throughout the newspaper arm, with executives ducking in and
out of meetings all day.
Former and current senior staff at News International said
Mockridge's departure was a huge blow, although they thought
Darcey would fit into a similar mould.
"Mike is a world-class executive with unprecedented strategic
and commercial experience and I look forward to benefiting
from his many talents," Murdoch said in his statement.
"His broadcasting background will provide important
leadership in the development of our already impressive suite
of digital products at News International."