Rebekah Brooks: Tabloids’ Saviour or Undertaker?
For many it was as sure as eggs is eggs when Rupert Murdoch reappointed his Ginger Tabby Rebekah Brooks as chief executive of the revamped and financially challenged new version of the UK media giant News International.
That is correct. Rupert’s losing money but not quite cash-strapped.
Murdoch’s flag ship The Sun is even now quietly selectively lowering the web Pay Wall it so proudly erected only to find hiding behind hedges meant fewer readers and further losses. The Times and others are sure to follow.
Four years after her resignation, following the revelations of thousands upon thousands of examples of bugging and phone hacking involving the newspapers she edited, Rebekah Brooks is back at the helm.
The woman who clawed her way from making the tea to the pinnacle of the UK Red Top tabloids plunging to become the most reviled journalist in Britain is again ascendant.
All may not be as it appears. Murdoch’s Empire is in decline. Like local newspapers before them, Red Tops and heavy National newsprint are all in free fall.
Rupert either has a remarkable insight into Brook’s financial skills and ability to digitise the failing Empire or is handing her the poisoned chalice because of past misdemeanours.
Flame-topped Brooks, former CEO of Murdoch’s UK Print Division, News International, was said to have received a severance deal worth close to £16 million when she resigned as CEO in 2011.
– so said the Independent back in July last year when it also gleefully announced:
Rupert Murdoch did not know Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson had been having an affair for years, and allegedly “went nuts” when he was given details before the phone hacking trial started. His alleged reaction to learning that two of his former executives, who had both edited The News Of World, had been involved in a physically intimate relationship for up to seven years, was initially to order that neither of them would ever work for a Murdoch-owned company again.
That 2011 deal was said to have included fees to run a private office, funds for private staff, and a designated sum for anticipated legal fees to fight the charges that were brought against her on hacking, paying public officials and an allied cover-up.
In June last year a jury at the Old Bailey cleared Mrs Brooks, her husband Charlie, and her former secretary Cheryl Carter of all charges.
The legal costs for the eight-month hacking trail were described by the judge, Mr Justice Saunders as “astronomical”. Mrs Brooks’ substantial defence team, led by Jonathan Laidlaw QC, was the most expensive of all the defendants in the trial.
Murdoch has a stranglehold on British print media and many politicians were less than openly beholding to him. (Blair’s rise to the top job as Prime Minister of the UK owed more to persuading The Sun to back him than the creation of the now transparently fictional New Labour).
During this time Rebekah was also soaring through the ranks and was said to have had three former or current Premier’s direct phone numbers and David Cameron’s personal number on speed dial.
Carl Mortished is a Canadian financial journalist and freelance consultant based in Britain
He writes in Canada’s Globe and Mail:
“She was editor of News of the World when the Sunday paper was bugging and hacking its way across Britain, into not just celebrity bedrooms, but also the phone of Milly Dowler, a missing teenaged schoolgirl, later found to have been brutally murdered. News of Ms. Brooks’s resurrection provoked cries of shock and dismay among her many enemies. Chris Bryant, Labour MP and shadow culture secretary, said it was “two fingers up to the British public.” However, her return should surprise no one. At the height of the phone-hacking scandal and even after closing the profitable News of the World, Mr. Murdoch declared that Ms. Brooks’s future was his No. 1 concern.
“Even so, her judicial escape and corporate rescue may turn out to be a less than glorious career move. She is now leading an organization that is smaller and facing trouble on many fronts. The hacking scandal is far from over, with the Crown Prosecution Service considering charges against News International (now renamed News UK). But the real problems lie much deeper than the prospect of a second round of legal fisticuffs before a judge. While Ms. Brooks was dealing with juries and parliamentary select committees, the tabloid newspaper world was quietly falling apart.
“As the hacking scandal ballooned, Mr. Cameron’s political embrace of Mr. Brooks became a huge embarrassment, not least because he was persuaded to hire as his press supremo Andy Coulson, once editor of News of the World and a former lover of Ms. Brooks.
“The Sun’s readership is dwindling fast. It remains the country’s top-selling newspaper, at about 1.8 million copies, but circulation is falling at a rate of more than 10 per cent a year. It was hurt badly by its decision in January to scrap the Page 3 topless models, and the Daily Mail is snapping at its heels, selling 1.6 million copies and occasionally outselling The Sun’s new Sunday edition.
“If Ms. Brooks can’t find a place for The Sun, there may come a day when it rises no more.”
A cynic may even be forgiven for wondering if a chief executive was totally unaware of criminal activity in the organisation four years ago…what has changed?