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Another Change in Top Ranks at News Corp.

General counsel Lawrence Jacobs leaving
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The changing of the corporate guard at News Corp. continues as another top adviser to Rupert Murdoch is on his way out the door. On Wednesday, News Corp. announced that general counsel Lawrence “Lon” Jacobs is leaving his position at the company.

The attorney was part of a close cadre of Murdoch advisers often referred to by News Corp. insiders as the “praetorian guard.” Jacobs played a critical role—along with CFO and board member David DeVoe and former communications chief Gary Ginsberg—in News Corp.’s takeover of Dow Jones & Company in 2007.

Observers have speculated that Jacobs’ departure is yet another move to dismantle Murdoch’s tight group of confidants as his son James Murdoch, who was named deputy COO, chairman and CEO of international operations in March, inches closer toward the top spot at News Corp. In June 2009, Peter Chernin was out as News Corp.'s president and COO, succeeded by Chase Carey, who currently holds the position. In the fall of 2009, after over a decade with the company, Ginsberg was also out the door (three months later, he was working for former rival Time Warner as a senior adviser to CEO Jeff Bewkes). Meanwhile, James Murdoch attempted to place a member of his own inner circle, top PR adviser for News Corp.’s European and Asian divisions Matthew Anderson, in line to succeed Ginsberg. Rupert Murdoch thwarted his son’s effort and named Teri Everett as head of News Corp’s corporate communications, a position that holds less stature at the company following Ginsberg’s departure.

Jacobs came to News Corp. in 1996 from the law firm Squadron, Ellenoff, Plesent & Sheinfeld, which had a long history as Murdoch’s legal advisors and ushered News Corp. through many of its major acquisitions, including the New York Post. (Squadron has since merged with the Washington D.C. law firm Hogan & Hartson). Initially, Jacobs served as deputy general counsel under Arthur Siskind, then News Corp.’s general counsel. Jacobs was promoted to general counsel in 2004 when Siskind retired. (Siskind continues to serve as a senior advisor to Murdoch and sits on the company’s board.) 

Jacobs is stepping down at a precarious time for the company, at least from a legal perspective. News Corp. continues to be embroiled in an ongoing legal battle regarding phone hacking engaged in by reporters at News of the World, a U.K. tabloid newspaper owned by News Corp. subsidiary News Group Newspapers. On Tuesday, a lawyer for News Group read a formal apology aloud in London’s high court to actress Sienna Miller, whose phone messages were hijacked and used for stories about her personal life. The apology was part of a settlement reached with Miller, which also included $164,000 in legal fees and damages.