Key Murdoch man Hinton in firing line

Steve Dinneen
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RUPERT Murdoch’s right hand man could become the highest-profile casualty of the scandal engulfing News Corp.

Dow Jones chief executive Les Hinton looks set to be dragged into the firing line after it emerged a report was commissioned in 2007 – on his watch – showing that phone hacking may not have been restricted to royal reporter Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.

Hinton, who after 52 years at the company is seen as a key Murdoch henchman, faces tough questions over whether he saw the report before he testified to a parliamentary committee that the phone hacking scandal was carried out by a “single rogue reporter”.

Sources close to News Corp have been forced to deny that James Murdoch or Rebekah Brooks had knowledge of the report, which was carried out by law firm Harbottle & Lewis on behalf of the News of the World.

The memo was finally handed over to police last month – four years after it was penned. Brooks was editor of sister publication the Sun at the time, which was not implicated in the scandal, and James Murdoch was at BSkyB. It now looks likely that heads will have to roll over the report.

After yesterday’s meeting with Rebekah Brooks at his London home, Rupert Murdoch reiterated that she is the woman to lead his UK newspaper business through the storm, insisting that she is his top priority.

Murdoch also met yesterday with his youngest son James – the third in command at News Corp and top man in Europe. Both James Murdoch and Brooks have come under increasing pressure as more revelations of illegal activities and alleged cover-ups surface at News International. There are even suggestions James Murdoch could face criminal charges after approving out of court settlements to hacking victims and misleading parliament, although he denies doing this deliberately.

With clouds hanging over the future of several News executives, some have forecast opportunities for the likes of Joel Klein, a former New York City education chancellor, and Elisabeth Murdoch.