NEW YORK/LONDON The Daily News of New York has hired former News of the World editor Colin Myler as its editor in chief, an appointment that is certain to add spice to the newspaper's long and heated rivalry with Rupert Murdoch's New York Post.
Myler, who replaces Kevin Convey, had long been a close lieutenant of Murdoch, serving as managing editor of the New York Post before he was brought to London in 2007 to clean up the scandal-plagued News of the World.
The hiring of Myler, 59, means he will now be in direct competition with Murdoch, whose News Corp. owns the New York Post and owned the News of the World until it closed this past summer.
Myler will start his job January 10.
Publisher Mort Zuckerman, who announced the hiring in a memo on Wednesday, denied that the decision had anything to do with striking a blow against either the New York Post or Murdoch.
"I have lot of respect and affection for Rupert," he said in an interview. "I don't do anything in business to either hurt him or help him."
The Daily News, the largest-circulation daily newspaper in New York, has been engaged in a long, expensive and often nasty competition with the New York Post. Myler served as executive editor and managing editor of the New York Post from 2001 to 2007.
"He was quite successful at the Post," said British media commentator Steve Hewlett. "He knows the market very well. He's won his spurs in that marketplace, and also of course he has no reason to thank Rupert Murdoch for anything now."
Myler's relationship with the Murdoch family, and Rupert's son James in particular, deteriorated over recent months into finger-pointing and accusations in the aftermath of the News of the World hacking scandal.
Myler was brought to News of the World to set straight a tabloid that was already under intense scrutiny from politicians and the public. Earlier that year, one of the paper's employees had been jailed for hacking into voice mail accounts.
Journalists who previously worked with Myler described him as a demanding editor, one with high standards.
"I quite liked him really, but he could be quite scary," said one former News of the World journalist. "My impression was he played things straight. If he felt you'd done something and ballsed it up he wouldn't forget it. If he felt you'd been incompetent over something he wouldn't forget it."
In 2011, more disclosures came to light about earlier episodes of phone hacking at News of the World, and News Corp eventually made the decision to shut down the 168-year old tabloid.
In statements to the parliamentary committee investigating the events, Myler has contradicted James Murdoch's account of how much he knew about the breadth of hacking at the paper.
Myler told the committee that he warned the younger Murdoch in early 2008 that the hacking went beyond a single reporter, testimony that appeared to be backed up by a series of emails.
James Murdoch, whose handling of the phone hacking crisis has raised questions about his status as presumptive heir to his father, said he did not read the emails.
"Myler's version of events has been substantiated by evidence," said London-based media analyst Clair Enders.
"It is entirely possible that James Murdoch did not read those emails, but Myler did bring the matter to his attention. It dispelled the cloud that was hanging over him in relation to whether he had gone off on his own tangent and was culpable in some way."
(Reporting By Paul Thomasch in New York and Georgina Prodhan in London; Editing by Carol Bishopric, Steve Orlofsky and Ed Lane)