News International taps Mike Darcey as CEO after Tom Mockridge resigns

BSkyB executive appointed after resignation of man picked to replace Rebekah Brooks last year

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 December, 2012, 5:55am

Rupert Murdoch's British newspaper unit, reeling from a phone-hacking scandal, named its third chief executive officer in less than 18 months yesterday as the parent company prepares to separate into two.

Mike Darcey, 47 and currently chief operating officer at pay-television operator British Sky Broadcasting Group, will replace Tom Mockridge, who plans to step down by the end of the year, the company said.

Mockridge last year took over from Rebekah Brooks, who quit over the hacking and bribery scandal, and faces a criminal trial next year.

News Corporation, bowing to pressure from shareholders, agreed in June to break off the publishing assets, which are growing more slowly than its Fox entertainment businesses.

"This is an incredibly exciting time for me personally, and for our companies' ambitious futures," Murdoch said.

"The challenges we face in the publishing and media industries are great, but the opportunities are greater."

The company yesterday named Robert Thomson, editor of The Wall Street Journal, to lead the publishing spin-off.

Darcey's task will be to make sure the British publishing business moves on from the scandal, said Warren Johnson, London-based media consultant at W Communications.

"Getting someone from a trusted and untarnished bit of their organisation makes sense," Johnson said.

"He's someone from outside the news business but still within the company, so he understands how News Corp works."

Mockridge resigned because he was not "comfortable" with the role offered to him amid the separation of Murdoch's publishing businesses from entertainment, he told staff.

Darcey, who took over as BSkyB's chief operating officer in November 2006, also sits on the boards of National Geographic Channels International and the British unit of Viacom's Nickelodeon business. He is also chairman of the board of trustees of the Royal Television Society. Before joining Sky in 1998, he had worked as an economic adviser for 11 years.

News International has been embroiled in government and police inquiries over phone-hacking at its best-selling daily The Sun and the News of the World tabloid, which has been shut down.

Findings of a press-ethics investigation last week recommended that Britain set up an independent media regulator.

In addition to being an outsider to the phone-hacking debacle, Darcey brings digital expertise to News International, which is struggling like many of its peers to adapt to online formats amid declining print-based revenue and the migration of readers to the internet, said Douglas McCabe, a media analyst at Enders Analysis in London.

"There are big changes at all these businesses in order to be able to operate in a digital world, and that's where Mike's expertise will be brilliant," he said.