Rupert Murdoch has denied Jeremy Hunt was “on the side” of News Corp over the company’s failed BSkyB takeover bid.
He told the Leveson Inquiry he did not believe he had met the Culture Secretary and had never discussed the bid with him. It was revealed at the inquiry on Tuesday James Murdoch had spoken briefly with David Cameron about the takeover at a dinner in 2010.
Murdoch said he and his son were “shocked” over comments made by business secretary Vince Cable, who was stripped of his powers overseeing the bid after being secretly recorded by Daily Telegraph reporters. Cable said he had “declared a war on Murdoch”.
He added: [James] told me when Mr Cameron removed Mr Cable’s responsibility and put in Mr Hunt, but I don’t believe he commented on it… We just thought we’d probably get a fairer go from anyone other than Dr Cable.
“I never saw anything wrong in what we were doing. It was as commonplace transaction. A large one but a commonplace one.”
A selection of emails between Frederic Michel, head of public affairs for News Corp in Europe, and Hunt’s special advisor Adam Smith were shown to the inquiry on Tuesday, revealing a backchannel of information over the bid passing from Hunt’s office. Smith has since resigned.
Mudorch told the inquiry: “It’s only much more recently that I’ve learnt of the extent of Mr Michel’s – you can call it lobbying, certainly his seeking of information and the progress of things… I didn’t see anything wrong with his activities. Was I surprised that it had gone on so long and there were so many emails? Yes sir.”
“I don’t want to sat anything against Mr Michel but I think there could have been a little bit of exaggeration there.”
The proprietor admitted he had only “tasted” the emails and had not read the entire collection, and said at the time he had been more concerned with the hacking scandal, leaving the deal in the hands of his son.
He admitted being surprised with the success of a competitors’ alliance, including the Guardian and the Telegraph, opposing the bid, and implied News Corp would have been successful were it not for the hacking scandal breaking in 2011.