Rupert Murdoch Cancels Economic Forum Trip to Handle BSkyB Bid Negotiations

The News Corp. CEO's top team is at the center of a mounting firestorm over illegal phone hacking as the BSkyB bid negotiations enter a critical phase.

LONDON -- Rupert Murdoch has cancelled his trip to the World Economic Forum and will instead stay in London, sources close to him confirmed late Tuesday.

The News Corp. CEO was meant to be on a brief pit-stop in London on his way to the Swiss mountain resort of Davos, but is understood to be taking personal charge of News Corp's BSkyB bid negotiations instead.

Murdoch has arrived in London to find his top team at the center of a mounting firestorm over illegal phone hacking as the BSkyB bid negotiations with Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt enter a critical phase.

Murdoch is thought to be handling the negotiations personally in a bid to stave off a referral to the Competition Commission, which could mean another six months in regulatory inquiry.

Hunt said earlier on Tuesday that he would take more time to deliberate on the $12 billion deal in order to examine new concessions put forward by News, which are thought to be around safe-guarding the editorial independence of Sky News.

Sky, Britains's most successful pay-TV operator with over 10 million subscribers, announces half-year results on Thursday.

Meanwhile, senior newspaper executives at News International are conducting an internal investigation into thousands of emails involving suspended News of The World news editor Ian Edmondson, amid allegations that reporters on the paper routinely tapped into the messaging services of politicians and stars including former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and actress Sienna Miller.

If evidence of hacking is found, the newspaper may end up paying out huge sums in out-of-court settlements to anyone affected or face expensive legal actions.

And if that weren't enough for the 80-year old exec to deal with, Sky Sports' longtime soccer commentator Andy Gray was summarily dismissed on Tuesday for a pattern of sexist behavior that included making derogatory comments about a female referee and an incident of sexual innuendo to a fellow presentor.

His fellow presenter Richard Keys remains under suspension.

Two years ago the chairman and chief executive officer of News Corp. co-chaired the World Economic Forum and spoke at a panel session titled Advice to the U.S. President on Competitivness. This year the best advice seems to be to stay away from world leaders and business moguls and sort out the troubles closer to home.