James Murdoch quits board of UK news publisher

November 23, 2011 - 1:20 PM

LONDON (AP) — News International executive James Murdoch has resigned as a director of the companies that publish The Sun and The Times of London newspapers, the company confirmed Wednesday.

Murdoch quit the board of News Group Newspapers Ltd. and Times Newspapers Ltd. following the appointment of Tom Mockridge as News International CEO in September, the company said in a statement.

News Group Newspapers publishes The Sun, Britain's biggest-selling tabloid, and until July published the News of the World tabloid, the country's top-selling Sunday paper. Times Newspapers is responsible for the Times and the Sunday Times.

Murdoch, who denies knowledge of wrongdoing in the hacking, remains chairman of News International, the British arm of his father Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. He also remains a director of the Times Newspapers Holdings Ltd., a holding company of Times Newspapers.

Although appointments to subsidiary boards such as these are often a matter of procedure, Murdoch's moves within News International and his father's larger News Corp. media empire are being closely watched amid speculation over whether the 39-year-old will succeed his father at the top of News Corp.

Murdoch's youngest son is still seen as the heir apparent, but his position was called into question following the re-eruption of a tabloid phone hacking scandal in July. Evidence that journalists at the News of the World routinely broke the law to win scoops has shaken the company and led to speculation over whether James could be called back to the U.S.

Some observers have also wondered whether Murdoch could sell his British papers, a cherished if largely unprofitable asset.

Although the reshuffle took place in September it wasn't reported until Wednesday.

Mockridge took over at News International from Rebekah Brooks, one of the most senior executives to resign in the phone hacking scandal. Brooks is one of a dozen Murdoch journalists to be arrested in the scandal.