According to SEC filings, James Murdoch’s base salary as chief executive of News Corporation’s Asian and European operations was $3.4 million. He was also eligible for a performance bonus of between $6 and $12 million. And a further signing bonus of 400,000 shares of company stock—presumably to secure his services from the many rivals bidding for the talents of the Harvard dropout and failed hip-hop record producer.
Those figures are worth bearing in mind when considering Murdoch minor’s response to the admirably precise summary of Robert Jay, the attorney acting as lead inquisitor to the Leveson Inquiry into the culture practice and ethics of the press, which was set up in response to the scandal last summer over revelations that reporters on the News of the World had hacked into the voicemail of various celebrities, politicians and figures in British life. At the time the hacking took place James Murdoch was busy running the British broadcaster BSkyB, but one of the first tasks he faced when he took over News International, the family’s British newspaper interests, in December 2007 was to settle a lawsuit by Gordon Taylor, head of the British football players’ union, whose phone had been hacked. The Taylor claim was significant because it exploded News Corp.’s claim that phone hacking, which first hit the headlines here with the January 2007 arrest of News of the World royal correspondent Clive Goodman, had been limited to a lone “rogue reporter.” And in agreeing to a settlement of over $ 1 million James Murdoch was paying way over the odds, leading to suggestions that the payment was “hush money” to keep the scandal under wraps.
In July James told a parliamentary committee he had no idea what he was paying for when he signed off on the Taylor settlement. He stuck to his non-denial denials even after they were contradicted by the company’s former counsel and the News of the World’s former editor—and despite revelations that the company had sought to destroy millions of potentially incriminating e-mails.