John Hartigan, the chairman and CEO of News Corp.'s Australian division, News Limited, announced today that he is resigning. In a notable move, Rupert Murdoch himself will take over Hartigan’s role as News Limited chairman.
The CEO position will be assumed by Kim Williams, who runs Foxtel, the pay-TV company partly owned by News Corp. According to Australia’s Crikey, News Limited staff is said to be in “total shock” at Hartigan’s unexpected departure.
In a statement, Murdoch said, “John’s decision will end a distinguished 41-year career with News Corp. in which he has given us exemplary service and incredible leadership.” Although the official statement implies that Hartigan resigned on his own accord, some members of the Australian media believe that the News Limited head may have been pushed out, Crikey said.
“Nobody seems to know why he was stepping down or was pushed,” said one News Limited staffer. “I did hear some rumors floating about that it might happen, but I still don’t really know why.”
Hartigan joined News Corp.’s Sydney office in 1970 as a reporter for the Daily Mirror, and later, the Daily Telegraph, where he eventually rose to top editorial positions. He was appointed CEO of News Limited in 2000 and became the company’s chairman in 2005. Hartigan has repeatedly denied any connection between the phone hacking scandal at the News of the World and his own Australian branch of the company.
According to The Guardian’s Roy Greenslade, Hartigan is “a very fit 63” and “can hardly be said to be too old for the job. Therefore, there is bound to be speculation that he has been prevailed upon by Murdoch to step aside. If so, the reason is unclear.”