Thursday, December 6, 2007
New London Times editor next week? Step up, James Harding??
All change for Mr Murdoch, says Stephen Brook, press correspondent for Guardian Unlimited:
The Times board, which approves the appointment of a new editor, is set to meet next week - fuelling speculation that James Harding is about to replace Robert Thomson in the top editorial job at the paper.
News International has refused to comment on the agenda for the meeting of the Times Newspapers Holdings Board, which is set to meet on Tuesday, December 11.
The meeting is two days before News International's parent company, News Corporation, completes its takeover of the Wall Street Journal's parent firm, Dow Jones.
As MediaGuardian.co.uk has previously reported, Thomson is strongly tipped to leave the Times to take up a senior job at Dow Jones after the acquisition is completed, although News Corp has not commented on this.
However, all the talk in News International's Wapping HQ is of an imminent new arrival in the Times editor's office, with one executive saying the appointment would be made "by the end of next week".
Harding, the Times business editor, whom Thomson recruited from the Financial Times 18 months ago, is still regarded as the favoured candidate to replace him as editor.
Other candidates are said to be deputy editor Ben Preston, Sunday Times editor John Witherow and Sun editor Rebekah Wade.
Next week's TNHB meeting is one of its four scheduled each year. Board members include News Corp chairman and chief executive Rupert Murdoch and News International executive chairman Les Hinton.
Independent directors currently on the board are Sarah Bagnall, Baroness Eccles of Moulton, John Gross, Baron Marlesford, Sir Robin Mountfield and Rupert Pennant-Rea.
Murdoch gave evidence about the Times board to a House of Lords select committee on media ownership in September.
According to the minutes, Murdoch said the Times board was there to make sure he did not interfere in the running of the Times and Sunday Times.
The minutes recorded: "He never says 'Do this or that', although he often asks 'What are you doing?'.
"He explained that he 'nominates' the editors of these two papers, but that the nominations are subject to approval of the independent board.
"His first appointment of an editor of the Times split the board but was not rejected."
This is thought to be a reference to Harold Evans, whom Murdoch switched from the Sunday Times to the Times after he bought both papers in 1981. Evans lasted less than a year in the Times job and was replaced by Charles Douglas-Home.