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It’s not often one has an occasion to feel bad for Rupert Murdoch. For most in the media, the phone hacking scandal surrounding Murdoch’s U.K. tabloid the News of the World seems just desserts for the man who famously introduced himself on a guest appearance on The Simpsons as “the billionaire tyrant” and whose name, for many, is a byword for tabloid journalism and TV sleaze. But spare a moment for old Rupe. It’s been a rough year for the 80-year-old mogul.
Consider this chronicle of 2011, Murdoch’s Annus horribilis:
Jan. 21: Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson resigns from his job as communications director to British Prime Minister David Cameron, citing “continued coverage of events” connected to the phone-hacking scandal. It’s a sign of worse to come.
March 3: Murdoch’s News Corp. bows to government pressure and agrees to sell off most of its Sky News channel in Britain in exchange for approval in its planned megadeal to buy the 61% of pay-TV giant BSkyB it does not already own. Despite the concession, approval for the BSkyB deal drags on. U.K. culture secretary Jeremy Hunt is now expected to delay his verdict on the deal until September.
April 6: Murdoch loses his top-rated talk show host when Fox News firebrand Glenn Beck resigns/is fired from the network. Beck’s ratings had fallen some 30% from a year before, and he was scaring away advertisers with his controversial on-air attacks on President Obama and wide-ranging conspiracy theories.
June 29: News Corp. sells sickly social media group MySpace (remember them?) for a paltry $35 million to Specific Media, with Justin Timberlake taking a small stake. It was an admission of defeat for Murdoch, who led the bold $580 million takeover of MySpace back in 2005.
July: New revelations in the phone hacking scandal, including allegations that News journalists hacked the phones of victims of the 7/7 London terrorist attacks and relatives of British soldiers killed serving in Iraq fuel public outrage and scare off News Corp. investors who worry the controversy could kill Murdoch’s BSkyB deal. Shares in BSkyB slip 5% in a week, wiping more than $1 billion off broadcaster’s valuation. News Corp. shares fall 2.6%, translating to a $400 million drop in value.
July 5: Ford announces it is canceling its advertising with News of the World because of the hacking scandal. An advertising exodus ensues, with Mitsibushi, Lloyds Banking Group and Virgin Holidays among the companies yanking their ad spend from the paper.
July 7: 2011 hits a new low for Murdoch when his son and heir apparent James admits “a personal failure” in the News of the World affair and announces that Sunday’s edition will be the last for the 168-year-old paper. British police inform former editor Coulson that they will arrest him Friday.
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