* BSkyB operating officer Darcey to replace Mockridge at NI
* Change comes as Murdoch confirms plan to split group
* Mockridge stands down after missing top publishing job
By Kate Holton
LONDON, Dec 3 Rupert Murdoch turned from one
straight-talking New Zealander to another on Monday, appointing
pay-TV executive Mike Darcey to run his troubled British
newspaper arm through what is likely to be another tumultuous
period for the Sun and Times titles.
Darcey will become chief executive of News International at
the start of the year, before a series of high profile criminal
trials stemming from a phone hacking scandal and a group
restructuring that could expose the papers to a harsh economic
The fact Murdoch has tapped a former economist known for
signing commercial deals and boosting subscription revenues in
his role at BSkyB reflects the changing pressures on the
newspaper business, analysts and colleagues said.
"He's meticulous in his thinking, he's extraordinarily cool
and calm and he does not get emotional," media consultant Claire
Enders said. "He's a known quantity to investors who follow
BSkyB and he will be a reassuring presence.
"But it's brave of him to take on that role."
Murdoch revealed the appointment of the 47-year-old Darcey,
who has no newspaper experience, as part of a wider announcement
detailing how he will split his News Corp media conglomerate
into two publicly-traded companies.
The more profitable pay-TV and film assets will be held in
one entertainment arm called Fox, while the smaller publishing
division will retain the News Corp name and include newspapers
such as the British titles, the Wall Street Journal, the New
York Post and the HarperCollins book publisher.
The publishing arm will be run by Robert Thomson, the
current managing editor of the Wall street Journal and editor in
chief of its publisher Dow Jones.
"While Thomson is a newspaper man through and through,
Darcey is the hands-on commercial guy," one former colleague of
Darcey's told Reuters. "He will be the perfect foil to Robert
"Commercial deals, strategic decisions, wholesale
partnerships, regulation and policy dealings are his bread and
butter. He's pushed Sky's content online and via mobile phones
and those are all skills needed by newspapers right now."
Darcey will need to tackle the continued fall out from the
phone hacking scandal, a string of arrests of staff at the daily
Sun tabloid over illegal payments, and the structural changes
hitting the wider newspaper industry.
Like all newspapers, the News International titles have been
hit by falling advertising and circulation revenues in recent
years, while they will have to prepare for a tougher regulatory
environment after a public inquiry called for a new law to make
sure a scandal like phone hacking can never happen again.
As part of a smaller publishing division, the Sun and Times
titles could also be exposed to far greater scrutiny of their
cost base by investors, unlike when they were part of the wider
News Corp with its $58 billion market valuation.
Darcey, who is married with two children, will replace Tom
Mockridge, another former Murdoch TV executive and New
Zealander, parachuted in to run News International at the height
of the hacking scandal last year. He quit on Sunday.
"To be direct, the reason I am leaving is that the new
structure does not offer me a role I am comfortable with," he
said in an email to staff seen by Reuters, in reference to the
fact he lost out on the top publishing job to Thomson.
"After 22 years with the company in five countries, I feel I
have made enough of a contribution to make a personal choice to
Mockridge joined News International at a time of great
upheaval, as the company struggled to get to grips with a
scandal that damaged the reputation and value of News Corp,
resulted in numerous arrests and tarnished the names of a string
of senior executives.
His predecessor Rebekah Brooks was forced to step down after
the now-defunct News of the World Sunday tabloid admitted it had
hacked into phones on an industrial scale to generate salacious
stories. She has since been arrested in connection with phone
hacking and other allegations.
Unlike Brooks, who counted former and current prime
ministers as close friends, Darcey is unlikely to adopt a
high-profile political role in Britain.
Mockridge brought stability to the Sun and Times newspapers
by maintaining a low profile and introducing a raft of digital
initiatives that saved costs and boosted digital readership.
Sources inside News International's Wapping headquarters
near the Tower of London on Monday said uncertainty was felt
throughout the newspaper arm, with executives ducking in and out
of meetings all day.
Former and current senior staff at News International said
Mockridge's departure was a huge blow, although they thought
Darcey would fit into a similar mould.
"Mike is a world-class executive with unprecedented
strategic and commercial experience and I look forward to
benefiting from his many talents," Murdoch said in his
"His broadcasting background will provide important
leadership in the development of our already impressive suite of
digital products at News International."