* Closure plans discussed to save $12 billion BSkyB bid
* Murdoch closed News of the World tabloid in July 2011
* Move followed scandal of hacking of murdered girl's phone
By Michael Holden
LONDON, March 3 Bosses at News International,
Rupert Murdoch's British newspaper arm, discussed closing a
tabloid at the centre of phone-hacking claims weeks before it
was hit by revelations that it had tapped a murdered
schoolgirl's mobile, a London court heard on Monday.
Rebekah Brooks, the former News International boss on trial
for phone-hacking offences, said the closure of the News of the
World had been considered as a way of trying to save News Corp's
$12 billion bid for the British pay-TV operator BSkyB
before it was engulfed in the scandal over the tapping
of murdered Milly Dowler's phone.
Murdoch shut the 168-year-old News of the World in July 2011
amid public and political disgust, days after the Dowler
revelations. He also ditched the plans to buy the 61 percent of
BSkyB that News Corp. did not own as politicians who had once
courted the media mogul turned against him.
Brooks, 45, was arrested days afterwards and is now accused
of conspiracy to illegally access voicemails on mobile phones,
authorising illegal payments to public officials and perverting
the course of justice. She denies all charges.
The jury at London's Old Bailey court were shown an email
from Simon Greenberg, then News International's director of
corporate affairs, to Brooks and another executive in early June
2011, when police had stepped up an inquiry into phone-hacking
but before it had reached crisis point.
"This is why we should consider the shutdown option,"
Greenberg wrote, which Brooks confirmed was a reference to the
"Is the brand too toxic for itself or the company? I believe
it is. Unparalleled moments need unparalleled action. You could
be the person to save the Rubicon deal."
Brooks, who was giving evidence for a seventh day, said
Rubicon was the codename for the BSkyB bid and that they had
believed closing down the tabloid would help with media
plurality concerns over News Corp.'s proposed takeover.
"I think Simon Greenberg, Will Lewis and I had discussed it
(the closure) before as a possibility as the level of civil
liability was growing," she said.
In addition to the police inquiry, the company had been
addressing an increasing number of phone-hacking victims seeking
damages over the behaviour of News of the World journalists,
which eventually led it to pay out millions of pounds.
Earlier, Brooks had told the court she thought the company's
"rogue reporter" defence to phone-hacking looked shaky in 2009
when she landed the job as chief executive.
Following the phone-hacking convictions in 2007 of private
detective Glenn Mulcaire and the News of the World's former
royal editor Clive Goodman, News International had repeatedly
blamed the practice on a "rogue exception".
However, in July 2009, an email came to light following
legal action by one hacking victim which indicated the illegal
tapping had not been limited to Goodman.
"It certainly showed ... that the emphaticness of the
company's position that nobody else knew what Glenn Mulcaire was
doing was looking shaky after that because this was an email
from someone at the News of the World," she said.
"This document obviously showed, if not involvement, a wider
The trial of Brooks and six others continues.