July 19th, 2011
06:16 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – If we were looking for News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch to give detailed answers to questions about alleged misdeeds at one of his subsidiaries, we did not get them.

"You had a hands-off approach," to the News of the World, committee member Philip Davies said to Rupert Murdoch.

The 80-year-old disagreed, saying he had his hands full "10 to 12 hours a day" overseeing an international company with 53,000 employees, and admitted that News of the World was less than 1% of his business, and that "maybe I lost sight of (it)."

"There was no excuse to break the law" at his newspapers, said Murdoch. "I was brought up by a father ... who was a great journalist. He ... bought a little small paper ... to give me a chance to do good ... to expose the scandals. Of which I am very, very proud of."

But as Conservative member of the committee Louise Mensch said, some might say "It's hard to believe that two executives, not considered passive, were not aware ..." that widespread hacking was going on.

There is clearly a geographical and maybe a generational gap between the two Murdochs. The elder of the two appeared to be much more "big picture" when it came to his British newspapers than might have been expected. James said in large companies management is delegated to the groups.

Rupert Murdoch spent much more time thinking before answering and gave much shorter answers. At points you wondered if he had an answer. But he did, even if it was that he did not know.

James Murdoch, 38, who as CEO of News Corp. Asia and Europe since 2008 oversees the British papers at the center of the phone-hacking scandal, said many times he could not answer questions about events that happened before he took over.

But he did give detailed answers on many more occasions than his father. He appeared confident, other than at times when he did not want answers to prejudice former employees now under arrest. He said it was "with deep regret" that the company made too strong of statements in the past that phone hacking was limited to a very few people.

Rupert Murdoch said he wished they had dealt with all this much sooner. "Phone hacking was wrong. Paying police was wrong," he said.

What did we learn about the empire?

Neither man had a detailed hand on the tiller of the British newspapers. That will surprise many, including some shareholders.

Still, James appeared very much a modern CEO. He's polished before cameras, appeared keen to be helpful, and even said he was shocked to learn that News International, the company he now oversees, has continued to pay legal fees for a private investigator who pled guilty to phone hacking.

We also learned that the company has no plans, at the moment, to launch a new Sunday tabloid in Britain. Both Murdochs said need to tackle the current situation was too more important to think about launching a new title.

Rupert Murdoch also claimed he only called the editor of his Sunday papers "on a Saturday night" or a couple of times a month, and would not interfere in what would appear in the paper.

What was most interesting to me was the committee members started off wanting (expecting?) to hear more from Rupert, they first asked James to not break in, but slowly and surely James answered the majority of the questions. He said he had no evidence of anyone in senior management intentionally keeping information from him.

When it comes to the "family business" the elder Murdoch was asked if he now regrets putting James in charge of BSkyB when he did. Rupert Murdoch said when he promoted his son to take much wider responsibilities, many big shareholders complained that he was taken away from BSkyB because he "did such a great job."

The bottom line: the two Murdochs do not feel ultimately responsible for what happened, but say they are very sorry it did happen.

As for any changes at the top, Rupert Murdoch said "I would love to have my sons and daughter follow on, if they are interested." I take that to mean he plans on keeping James Murdoch in his spot and his other children close by.

Will the board of News Corp. agree after this testimony?

As Rupert Murdoch said at the start: "This is the most humble day of my life."

But after the attempted attack on him by a member of the public in the committee room, an unshaken but now jacketless Rupert Murdoch was asked if he thought of resigning. He said, "No ... I'm the best person to clear this up."

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soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. miguel

    Oh, so now he is "hands off," just because he says so. The most shrewd, implacable news cartel boss of the world is a laissez-faire type of guy. And the MP's hand that excuse over to thim on a platter. How disgusting.

    July 19, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
  2. SmarterthanU

    No CEO in the world that holds 1/8 of his power would be involved at such a microscopic detail. You have C level personnel, Directors, VP, Senior Managers, Managers, Supervisors and then employees to filter things before any trouble is shown to the CEO. Stop trying to nail Murdoch on something that he would have no idea about. With 53,000 employees spread across numerous companies, he'd only look at their final numbers. This story is chasing the dark.

    July 19, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
  3. Johnny

    Believe that headline, and I've got a winning Super Lotto ticket to give you. A CEO may not know everything that's going on, but Hello, it's your bailiwick, so it's his responsibility through & through. Using that excuse is like listening to a three year old repeating that time-worn deflector, "It was an accident". Perhaps Mr. Murdoch is experiencing the onset of selective memory that strangely besets anyone in a position of power.

    July 20, 2011 at 12:13 am |
  4. Johnny

    @SmarterthanU... Sorry, the 53,000 employees argument doesn't hold water, and is a desperate attempt to fool and enlist simple-minded apologists who would buy into it, lock, stock & barrel. Of course he doesn't manage at that level, which is why mentioning this is just grasping at straws. On the other hand, the upper echelon executives who hatched and sanctioned this plot are very much in direct and constant contact with Murdoch, a notorious micro-manager himself. No one is trying to nail Murdoch; his management style doomed his Fourth Estate long ago.

    July 20, 2011 at 12:57 am |
  5. never mind

    @SmarterthanU
    So his company pays out 700,000 pounds to buy someone's silence and you don't think he'd bother to get any explanation. Even shareholders would want to know what that was all about.

    July 20, 2011 at 1:48 am |
  6. Newscrazy

    Gimme a break. Don't tell me the brain (head) isnt aware of what's happening in the foot. Try stepping hard on good old Rupert's foot with a stilleto heel and see if he doesnt yelp in pain. Like the song goes: ...connecta Y bone... Y bone conencta Z bone..etc.

    July 20, 2011 at 3:22 am |
  7. Evan

    Pretty good take on how it went down, Jim. News Corp. should take a hint from CNN and NPR, where good journalists like you are found.

    July 20, 2011 at 3:50 am |
  8. Rich

    I agree with SmarterthanU about the CEO's accountability: A CEO of a global corporate network with that many employees and various dispersed centers of decision-making would not necessarily be operating with "hands-off" for this kind of illegal activity to start up in one of its businesses and run free for a period of time. However, that this terrible stuff went on at such a scale does suggest that the empire itself is unwieldy in size and structure, and that the structure represents a danger to itself and others.

    July 20, 2011 at 3:56 am |
  9. CrocHunter

    Crikey!

    July 20, 2011 at 5:33 am |
  10. Sinbad

    Well at least the part about his father was the truth. Sir Keith Murdoch was a great Australian, it is a pity his son didn't follow his example.

    July 20, 2011 at 5:56 am |
  11. Alex

    I agree that he would not be aware of every detail, he certainly couldn't be, no human being could follow events at such a detailed level. But there was widespread hacking and corruption in a major newspaper, Rupert Mordoch may not have been aware, but the editor surely would have been, unless they were unaware of what was going on in their own newspaper.

    It was not sorted at that level, even after allegations emerged in 2009 that hacking was taking place. I don't believe both Mordochs would have remained unaware at that point, it surely would have been bought to their attention by their employees.

    July 20, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  12. Ric

    No excuses, if you are not aware of something as big and bad is going on behind your back, then you have a BIG management issue, you are the CEO, your responsability, choose the right peolple and have the adequate policies and procedures to avoid illegal practices. We are not talking of a single isolated incident. Inconpetence? perhaps but for such a tycoon...unlikely...nothing done since the 2009 incident?

    July 20, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
  13. Agwadike, Jide

    It's always so easy to criticize people when they have fallen short. But fact is, we all introspectively, have been guilty of the R.Murdoch-oversight: we fail to pick out that tendency in our kids until they pilfer...then rob...then kill. We fail to re-examine our relationships & businesses as at when due until it cracks...then crashes. We fail to re-orientate that pervert until he assaults....then rapes. we fail to timely de-radicalize that fundamentalist/terrorist until he kills for apparently no reasons. We've all got that Murdoch-oversight & should stop acting up like we could have done better. Phone hacking is condemnable but its chasng the dark really (apologies @ SmarterthanU) condemning Murdoch when there are persons the public can hold directly responsible.

    July 20, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  14. Kevin

    Who cares?

    July 20, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  15. Husband of an Asian Woman

    JEALOUS WHITE WOMEN, DON'T YOU LET YOUR HATRED OF ASIAN WOMEN INFLUENCE YOUR OPINION OF WENDI DENG MURDOCH!

    SHE IS NOT SOME BIMBO TROPHY WIFE!

    SHE HAS AN MBA FROM YALE AND WAS A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESSWOMAN BEFORE SHE MET RUPERT MURDOCH!

    SO SHE HAS BRAINS AS WEL AS BEAUTY, NOT TO MENTION A DAMN GOOD STRONG PERSONALITY!

    WENDI IS NOT AFRAID TO PROTECT HER MAN!

    I WISH I COULD SAY THE SAME FOR A LOT OF WIVES OUT THERE!

    I HATE IT WHEN WHITE WOMEN TAKE EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO BASH AN ASIAN WOMAN JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE JEALOUS OF THEIR BEAUTY!

    FOR GOD SAKES, MEN CHOOSE WOMEN NOT JUST ON BEAUTY BUT ALSO ON PERSONALITY AND BRAINS, AS RUPERT MURDOCH HAS DONE WITH HIS WIFE WENDI DENG MURDOCH!

    WENDI, A JOB WELL DONE! KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!

    July 20, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
  16. larry

    Mr. Hands Off has been described as the most intensely Micro-Manager the world has ever known in the business world. He keenly knows what is going everywhere at any time, at any location and any employee anywhere in the world. He knows exactly what is going on, and so does his son and Rebecca Brooks. They lied through their teeth at this hearing that had " no teeth" behind it because those in power chose not to require them to be " under oath " given the option that they could have required them to do so. This in itself is another coverup by those in power to cover up the crimes of this syndicate crime family, either through intimidation by their attorneys or repercussions from the empire to blackmail those in power. They should be forced to go in front of Parliament again, take an oath, and answer those questions again and get to the bottom of these crimes committed by the media owned by the Murdock Empire. If they refuse then they should be forced to resigned if they feel that their testimony will to tell the truth conflicts with their earlier testimony yesterday.

    July 20, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
  17. Robert Santos

    All these attacks against Wendi Murdoch! I must say that I am offended by those who bash Wendi Murdoch unfairly in vague terms without providing a fair explaination. She is no bimbo trophy wife but an intelligent savy accomplished businesswoman who lived the American Dream, coming from nothing in China. Even if she had never married Rupert Murdock she would still be very successful. She was already very successful as a businesswomen before she married Rupert Murdock. Many an American man wants to marry an Asian woman because they think they are the most beautiful women and so thus there are a lot nonAsian women who are simply bias against Asian women. Just by reading these attacks I know that some of them are such women who are full of bias. Furthermore, Wendi is not a "foreigner." She's a U.S. citizen and no longer a Chinese citizen. She's been in the U.S. for over half her life ever since she came here as a college kid. So stop labeling her as this foreigner from China. She's American! A Chinese spy! Give me a break! Such claims are based on racism! And finally, it takes two to break a marriage. The guys who cheated on their wives are the ones to blame the most, okay? Don't put it all on Wendi Murdoch.

    July 20, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
  18. mark AU

    so much Rupert bashing on CNN! i am beginning to find it even a little offensive with undertones of racism coming through. leave this poor old Aussie Newspaperman and his Chinese wife alone.

    comments on their personal life are appauling! let those with out sin be the first to cast stone!

    we love you Rupert

    July 21, 2011 at 6:37 am |
  19. Matthew Steeples

    The News of the World was only 1% of the empire but God help Murdoch if his employees are anything like the doorman at his London residence: http://dasteepsspeaks.blog​spot.com/2011/07/conceit-i​s-gods-gift-to-little-men.​html.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:27 am |
  20. Byrd

    Aw, poor little Rupert. In losing News of the World he also lost the capstone on his economic pyramid of lies, deceit and scum. Anybody can tell you that a pyramid is absolutely worthless without its capstone. Kinda like a red hot poker in the all seeing eye, isn't it, Freemason...?

    July 21, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  21. Kabel

    The idea that Rupert Murdoch was a hands-off type of manager is completely insane. I mean we are talking about a man who has been using his media machine including Fox News to spread his ultra conservative views around the world. Not only that but then he gives a giant promotion to the person right in the middle of this whole fiasco, Rebekah Brooks. Now if the world is to believe Rupert Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks what happened was entirely out of their hands because they each were hands off managers. Well, these two are anything but hands off. Just looking back over the past 10 years Mr. Murdock has taken credit for several major headline breaking stories throughout his organization and has even stated that he is very much a hands on guy and even has credit that to his long life. Rebekah Brooks, is another card altogether. Can anyone believe for a second that she was just some easy going high level executive? Again even she has taken credit for past major news stories. This is just the same old defensive line of, "Oh, I didn't know what the people under me were doing." Better to be incompetent than impotent.

    July 21, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
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    THIS MAN IS CRIMINAL OF THE HIGHEST RANK WORKING FREELY WITH OUR CORRUPT POLITICIANS

    October 2, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
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