News Corp.'s Chase Carey defends boss Rupert Murdoch as price tag on phone-hack scandal climbs

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James and Rupert Murdoch. ()
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News Corp. president and chief operating officer Chase Carey offered an impassioned defense of his boss, Rupert Murdoch, on Wednesday afternoon.

His remarks echoed similar statements from News Corp. and its board following last week's blistering report from a British parliamentary committee, which called Murdoch, who is both chairman and C.E.O., "not a fit person" to run an international media company. The committee's inquiry was convened in response to the phone-hacking scandal that has upended News Corp's operations in the U.K.

"I flatly reject the report's notion that Rupert is unfit to run a major media company," said Carey, speaking during a quarterly earnings call with Wall Street analysts and the press.

The parliamentary committee had been divided somewhat along party lines, including on the "not fit" language, prompting Carey to call it a "purely partisan finding."

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"Rupert is one of the smartest and most forward-thinking executives of our time, and both the board and I rebuff any notions that he is unfit to run this company," he said.

Carey also trumpeted Murdoch's contributions to the British media industry, where News Corp. owns newspapers The Sun, The Times of London, and The Sunday Times, as well as a nearly 40-percent stake in British satellite and telecom giant, BSkyB.

"Rupert has taken great business risks, especially in the U.K., where he's led News Corp's heavy investment," said Carey. "We invested in The Times and The Sunday Times when both titles were nearly out of business."

Later in the call, Carey said News Corp. "has no plans" to spin off any of its U.K. titles. While acknowledging that the company would still someday like to own BSkyB outright, a prospect that was thwarted last year as a result of fallout from the scandal, he said: "We're not going to put time frames on it."

Carey also said the company had not given any consideration to Rupert's son, James Murdoch, stepping down from the boards of either News Corp. or BSkyB.

As the former head of News International, the company's British publishing arm, James found himself at the heart of the phone-hacking saga, which centered around the now defunct News Corp. tabloid News of the World. Once thought to be the heir apparent to his father, his role in the company has been diminished, and he's stepped down from several outside boards as a result.

Included in News Corp's third-quarter earnings results, meanwhile, was a revelation that the company had spent another $63 million "related to the costs of the ongoing investigations initiated upon the closure of The News of the World."

Back in February, the company revealed that for the six months ended Dec. 31 of last year, it had spent $104 million on expenses related to the scandal.