James Murdoch Steps Down From News International

(Image credit: Warren Allott/AFP/Getty Images)

Rupert Murdoch's son, James Murdoch, has stepped down from his position as executive chairman of News International, News Corporation's UK publishing unit that has been rocked by a phone hacking scandal and police investigation.

James Murdoch will focus on expanding News Corp.'s international television businesses, the company said in a statement today.

In November, James Murdoch resigned as a director of the companies which publish the British newspapers The Sun and The Times and had relocated to News Corp.'s headquarters in New York.

James Murdoch, who remains in his position as chief operating officer of News Corp., has been under fire from the British parliament for responding too slowly after a phone hacking scandal began to unravel the News of the World.  The British tabloid published its last issue in July 2011 after revelations that it hacked the phone of Milly Dowler, a murdered teen whose phone was hacked by News of the World in 2002.

James did not directly oversee the News of the World when the hacking took place, but he approved payments to some of the paper's most prominent hacking victims, including 700,000 pounds ($1.1 million) to Professional Footballers' Association chief Gordon Taylor, according to the Associated Press.

James Murdoch had led News Corp.'s operations in Europe and Asia since 2007 and became chief operating officer in March 2011. Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corp., had reportedly been grooming his son to become a successor. News International launched its newest newspaper, The Sun, on Sunday.

"We are all grateful for James' leadership at News International and across Europe and Asia, where he has made lasting contributions to the group's strategy in paid digital content and its efforts to improve and enhance governance programs," Rupert Murdoch said in a statement. "He has demonstrated leadership and continues to create great value at Star TV, Sky Deutschland, Sky Italia, and BSkyB. Now that he has moved to New York, James will continue to assume a variety of essential corporate leadership mandates, with particular focus on important pay-TV businesses and broader international operations."

News Corp.'s television businesses are reportedly more lucrative arms of the company and include Fox Broadcasting and BSkyB in the U.K.

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