Tom Mockridge lets rip in private on ‘disputes, late nights and grief’ over phone hacking
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s lieutenant in charge of four UK newspapers shares his boss’s fondness for blunt speaking.
And blunt he was at a private meeting with a group of arrested journalists on The Sun. Tom Mockridge, as chief executive of News International, said at the secretly recorded meeting that the company faces total costs from phone hacking of £1 billion.
On Friday, Exaro published a full transcript of the Mockridge meeting with Sun staff, which lasts more than an hour and 10 minutes. The disclosure came after our exposure in July of comments by Murdoch at another private meeting at News International’s headquarters in London.
Today, we upload audio extracts of Mockridge’s key comments, totalling more than 12 minutes. His estimate of News International’s exposure is far higher than the $448 million publicly declared by Murdoch’s group so far for costs and potential exposure from both phone hacking at the defunct News of the World and the paying of public officials for information by journalists on The Sun.
News Corporation, as parent company to News International, established the management and standards committee (MSC) to collate material to hand over to the police following the phone-hacking affair that closed the News of the World in 2011.
Mockridge succeeded Rebekah Brooks as News International’s chief executive in 2011. At the meeting, Mockridge makes clear his regret over the scale of co-operation that the group gave to the police.
He says: “The company made the big decision 15 months ago, 18 months ago, to say we would do open-heart-surgery co-operation.”
Asked why News Corporation had not taken a more robust approach, he says: “With the benefit of hindsight, if whoever had been – it wasn’t my decision – but if I had been in hindsight and had to make that decision, that’s what you’d say, ‘Turn up with a search warrant.’ But unfortunately, it’s just bloody well too late.”
But he reserved his frankest comments for the lawyers, “of which there are many and too many”, referring to them as “all bastards”.
In his strong New Zealand accent, he says: “We’ve had plenty of arguments, and disputes, late nights and grief.”
He also talks about the impact of the closure of the News of the World to the business, and the failure of the Sun on Sunday to fill the gap.
He says: “The other thing about the News of the World, whatever you thought of it, it was a very profitable newspaper. It was contributing like, £80 million a year to the business. Because it was £1, it used to do a million a week on average, it was a positive- it was a big positive contributor, and it did a great job on Sunday. But it’s 50p, it’s been- okay, we had a good week last week, where it’s averaging about half a million on there, it did 800 last week. It’s not nearly as financially contributive.”
Mockridge left News International, since rebranded News UK, last December.
News International declined to answer Exaro’s questions about Mockridge’s comments. In particular, it made no answer as to why Mockridge’s estimate on the company’s exposure to phone hacking was so much larger than the figure publicly declared by the group.
In a one-line statement, a spokesman for News International simply told Exaro: “Tom Mockridge no longer works for the company.”
Exaro’s compilation of audio clips from the Mockridge meeting can be downloaded by clicking on the ‘headphones’ image above. A transcript of the extracts in the audio can be downloaded by clicking on the link below, but we published the full transcript of the Mockridge meeting previously.