Phone hacking rings up £206m bill at Wapping

NEWS INTERNATIONAL, the British newspaper arm of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, swung to an operating loss in its last financial year, after it took a massive writedown from closing the News of the World.

Company filings revealed that News International’s former chief executive Rebekah Brooks received a £10.9m compensation package when she stepped down last year over the phone hacking scandal.

This was much higher than the £7m previously estimated. News International, which publishes the Times, the Sunday Times and the Sun, reported a £153m operating loss in the year to July, compared to a £113m profit the year before. Revenues at the group – which includes book publisher HarperCollins – were down 13 per cent to £1.2bn.

The profits hit was partly due to a host of charges related to closing the News of the World in June 2011. The company took £46.6m in one-off costs over the closure, made up mainly of legal costs, and wrote down £160m from publishing rights.

The tabloid newspaper was shut after a public outcry stemming from a string of allegations made against News of the World staff related to phone hacking.

Losses also widened at Times Newspapers Limited, the subsidiary that owns the Times and Sunday Times. Turnover fell from £402m to £361m and losses more than doubled to £28.7m.

The editor of the Times, James Harding, resigned yesterday after five years in the role. Harding, who was the youngest-ever editor of the newspaper, told staff that News Corporation had made it clear it wanted him to leave.

“It has been made clear to me that News Corporation would like to appoint a new editor of the Times. I have, therefore, agreed to stand down. I called Rupert [Murdoch] this morning to offer my resignation and he accepted it,” Harding said.

The editor of the Sunday Times, John Witherow, is strongly tipped to take Harding’s role.