Who’s left in Murdoch’s inner circle?

The fallout from the News of the World hacking scandal continues to swarm the News Corp. chain of command like a school of flesh-eating piranhas. Les Hinton, the CEO of Dow Jones and former News International executive, resigned on Friday, and the picture only got bleaker over the weekend with the arrest of Rebekah Brooks ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

The fallout from the News of the World hacking scandal continues to swarm the News Corp. chain of command like a school of flesh-eating piranhas. Les Hinton, the CEO of Dow Jones and former News International executive, resigned on Friday, and the picture only got bleaker over the weekend with the arrest of Rebekah Brooks and the resignations of Scotland Yard's top cop and his deputy. Murdoch and his son are said to be in campaign-style damage-control mode for the full-on assault they are likely to receive tomorrow at a parliamentary hearing. And today, Bloomberg News is reporting that Murdoch's hold on his company is shaky, with some board members questioning whether a change in leadership is needed. It's hard to believe just how far the mighty have fallen in two short weeks.

But whom is the media tycoon listening to these days, now that one of his main confidants was forced to resign and his son and heir-apparent is even more damaged than he is?

Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal

The fallout from the News of the World hacking scandal continues to swarm the News Corp. chain of command like a school of flesh-eating piranhas. Les Hinton, the CEO of Dow Jones and former News International executive, resigned on Friday, and the picture only got bleaker over the weekend with the arrest of Rebekah Brooks and the resignations of Scotland Yard’s top cop and his deputy. Murdoch and his son are said to be in campaign-style damage-control mode for the full-on assault they are likely to receive tomorrow at a parliamentary hearing. And today, Bloomberg News is reporting that Murdoch’s hold on his company is shaky, with some board members questioning whether a change in leadership is needed. It’s hard to believe just how far the mighty have fallen in two short weeks.

But whom is the media tycoon listening to these days, now that one of his main confidants was forced to resign and his son and heir-apparent is even more damaged than he is?

Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal

The second-biggest News Corp. shareholder after Murdoch is a key voice in the company. On Thursday he gave an interview to the BBC (in shorts, aboard his yacht in the south of France) that got a lot of attention.

"If the indications are for her [Brooks’s] involvement in this matter is explicit, for sure she has to go, you bet she has to go," the Saudi royal said.

Within 24 hours, she was indeed gone (though some reports say Murdoch was leaning in that direction since at least Tuesday). The prince also urged Murdoch and his son James to cooperate with the British inquiries. Murdoch, who previously had said he wouldn’t attend tomorrow’s parliament hearing, reversed course and announced his plan to take part. As some analysts speculate, the prince is voicing the concerns of many shareholders. He holds a 7 percent stake in the company, but despite falling share prices, he said he wouldn’t sell.

Joel Klein

The former chancellor of New York City’s public schools was brought in last fall to take a key advisory post at News Corp. Dealing with New York’s unruly teachers’ union might soon seem like child’s play by comparison. According to Reuters, Murdoch has turned to him for guidance since the crisis began and has brought him in to his "inner circle." He’s now directing a newly formed management and standards committee at the company, and analysts say his power in the company will grow — especially since the resignations of Brooks and Hinton. Klein headed the antitrust division of the U.S. Justice Department in the 1990s and is thought to be good at times of crisis.

Chase Carey

Another key News Corp. figure in Murdoch’s inner circle, Carey is hard-charging and, according to some, ruthless. The company’s chief operating officer (and Murdoch’s deputy) flew from New York to London at his boss’s side. Carey is reportedly responsible for getting Murdoch to drop his bid for BSkyB — an indication of how influential he is (News Corp insiders have described him as a "brake on Murdoch"). There’s talk that he might nudge aside Rupert’s son James to take over the company eventually.

Steven Rubenstein

This is the guy you go to when you’re deep in crisis. Remember when David Letterman was being blackmailed over affairs with work colleagues? He hired Rubenstein. But this could be the famed public-relations expert’s toughest case yet. Murdoch brought Rubenstein in last week to help manage the crisis. He is now helping to prep Murdoch and his son for their grilling tomorrow in parliament. As Murdoch’s biographer Michael Wolff points out — Rubenstein has a lot of work to do.

"[Murdoch] is awful at this sort of stuff. He is pretty inarticulate, mumbles all the time, and is incredibly defensive," he told the Guardian.

Brendan Sullivan Jr.

With an FBI probe bringing the company’s legal jeopardy stateside, News Corp. is lawyering up. Brendan Sullivan, the famed Washington defense lawyer, has reportedly been hired by the company to battle any potential fallout. Sullivan, who is a partner at the firm Williams & Connolly, has defended Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, New York Stock Exchange Chairman Richard Grasso, and Oliver North, among others.

Given that News Corp. is currently without a general counsel (bad time to be hiring for that job), Sullivan seems a necessary addition.

Robert Zeliger is News Editor of Foreign Policy.

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