Just two weeks ago, on July 2, a glittering array of media and political figures were fêted in a sumptuous News Corp. bash held at Cotswald Mansion, the home of Rupert Murdoch's daughter Elisabeth. That now seems like another era. Outcry over the hacked phones of 3,870 ordinary Brits, including the erased messages of a murdered 13-year-old girl, Millie Dowler, has hit London’s power elite. The News of the World has been shuttered, and Mr. Murdoch’s planned $12 billion purchase of full control of satellite TV station BSkyB has been blocked. News Corp. has lost approximately $7 billion in value since June 1. Last Friday is being termed “Black Friday” for News Corp. here as both Brooks and a top US executive, Les Hinton, left the firm.
Moreover, the Murdoch empire in Britain, known and feared as kingmakers and opinion-shapers, faces unprecedented revulsion and opposition.
“The scandal is letting out a lot of anger that has been built up for years in the British public,” says Jasmine Birtles, who runs the Moneymagpie website in London. “Brooks has been arrested on the same day as the British public is hearing she told [Prime Minister] Cameron he had to hire Andy Coulson as chief press officer.”
In Britain, the revelations that Murdoch's tabloid routinely bribed police officers and illegally listened to private cellphone messages has overshadowed an ongoing debt crisis in Europe that has crippled Greece and raised questions about the ability of Italy and Spain to pay back debt. It has also diverted attention from Britain’s own difficult adjustment to spending cuts, including to medical programs and pension plans.
Brooks, a central figure in the unfolding scandal and a horseback riding partner of Mr. Cameron, endured growing British public opprobrium before she resigned July 15. Yesterday, her visit to a London police station to cooperate in an investigation turned into an arrest and 12 hours of detention and questioning before terms of her bail were agreed to.