• The Hollywood Reporter on LinkedIn
  • Follow THR on Pinterest

Hacking Trial: Rebekah Brooks Talks David Beckham, Andy Coulson Relationship

News Corp. Phone Hacking Charges and Settlements

The former CEO of the U.K. newspaper arm of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. says the soccer star got $1.6 million for book excerpts and takes issue with the prosecution's claim that she had an affair with Coulson.

LONDON – Excerpts from former L.A. Galaxy soccer star David Beckham's autobiography cost Rupert Murdoch's The Sun and News of the World more than $1.6 million (£1 million).

The large payment to the English sports icon emerged during Friday's appearance by Rebekah Brooks, the former CEO of New International, the U.K. newspaper arm of News Corp., on the witness stand during her trial, according to the The Guardian. (News International was renamed News UK during the June 2013 splitting of News Corp. into two entities: News Corp, sans period, and 21st Century Fox.)

Brooks, a former editor at both Murdoch publications, is charged with several counts, including phone hacking and obstruction of justice.

The million-dollar Beckham payment was disclosed as Brooks entered the second day of her defense against the charges, during which she also was quizzed about Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator used by NI to allegedly hack phones. (Mulcaire was jailed along with News of the World's then-royal editor Clive Goodman in 2007.)

According to British media reports, Brooks told the court that she did not know about News of the World's $153,000 (£92,000) annual contract with Mulcaire.

The court heard the annual contract was an "arrangement" between private investigator Mulcaire and senior journalist Greg Miskiw. According to The Guardian, Brooks, asked if she knew anything about the contract, said: "No, not at the time."   She said her "sign-off level" for payments in 2000 and 2001 was around $83,000 (£50,000), so requests for larger sums should have come to both her and then-managing editor Stuart Kuttner, another defendant.   Speaking about spending she did greenlight, Brooks said News of the World would spend thousands of pounds on celebrity pictures. She also cited the Beckham payment.   Brooks also spoke about her relationship with former colleague Andy Coulson -- a co-defendant -- while she was married to actor and TV host Ross Kemp, a former star of British soap EastEnders.

She told the jury that she was "incredibly close" to Coulson and called him her "best friend," but said it had been wrong of the prosecution late last year to characterize their relationship as a six-year affair.

While they had several periods of "physical intimacy," the prosecution had misinterpreted a letter she had written to him declaring her love in 2004.

"I seem to remember sometimes I would write things down to myself," the The Guardian quoted her as saying. "Obviously, it's a letter, and I probably woke up the next morning and thought better of it."

The paper said that Brooks was close to tears when she discussed the relationships with Coulson and Kemp, at one point asking for a break.

She said she met her current husband, Charlie Brooks -- also a co-defendant -- in March 2007.