Murdoch built a media empire on newspapers, and now one — News of the World — could be his downfall. A chronography of when and how things went awrypublished by THE WEEK
An electronic-eavesdropping scandal that started at Rupert Murdoch's Sunday tabloid News of the World is rapidly escalating into a full-fledged conflagration that threatens Murdoch, his global media empire, and the British government — and has already resulted in the arrest or resignation of several previously untouchable figures. How did allegations of listening in on the voicemails of the royal family snowball into a threat to one of the world's most powerful media titans? Here, a timeline of key events in the News Corp. phone-hacking scandal:
1843News of the World is first published, by John Browne Bell
1969Australian Rupert Murdoch buys the newspaper, his first toehold in Great Britain
1984Murdoch revamps News of the World from a broadsheet to a tabloid format
1989Rebekah Wade (she married horse trainer Charlie Brooks in 2009 and took his name) is hired at News of the World, as a secretary
2000Wade becomes editor of News of the World at age 32, making her Britain's youngest national newspaper editor
March 2002Milly Dowler, 13, disappears on a walk home in a London suburb. Days later, private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, working for News of the World, allegedly starts intercepting Dowler's cellphone voicemail messages, and erasing them to make room for more. The deletion of messages gives Dowler's family and the police false hope that Dowler is alive, until her remains are found in September 2002.
January 2003Wade becomes editor of sister News Corp. paper The Sun; her deputy since 2000, Andrew Coulson, becomes editor of News of the World
March 2003Wade tells a committee of the lower house of Parliament that News of the World has paid police officers for information; parent company News International says that is not common practice.
November 2005News of the World publishes a story on Prince William's knee injury, with confidential information that leads royal court officials to complain to police about intercepted voicemails. The police open an investigation.
August 8, 2006Mulcaire and News of the World royal-family editor Clive Goodman are arrested for phone-hacking
January 26, 2007Mulcaire and Goodman are jailed for six and four months, respectively. Coulson resigns as editor of News of the World, claiming "ultimate responsibility" for the hacking, but denying any knowledge of it.
May 2007News International lawyers conclude there is "no evidence" Coulson knew about Goodman's illegal activities. Coulson is hired as communications director for the Conservative Party and its leader, David Cameron.
December 2007James Murdoch, son of Rupert, becomes chief executive of News Corp.'s European and Asian operations
June 2009Rebekah Wade is named CEO of News International, effective in September. She marries Charlie Brooks; then–Prime Minister Gordon Brown (Labour) and current Prime Minister David Cameron (Tory) attend the wedding.
July 2009The Guardian reports that several News of the World journalists had intercepted the voicemails of celebrities and politicians, with the knowledge of senior staff, and that its parent company had paid more than $1.6 million to settle phone-hacking cases that could have unearthed evidence of broader hacking at the paper. Scotland Yard says it isn't reopening the case.
February 2010The House of Commons Culture, Media, and Sports Committee issues a scathing report saying it's "inconceivable" that News of the World managers didn't know about the "near industrial scale" phone-hacking at the tabloid.
May 2010Cameron becomes prime minister, and hires Coulson as his media chief.
September 2010The New York Times publishes a report, based on information from several former News of the World reporters and editors, that Coulson knew about and regularly discussed phone-hacking during his tenure; the Times article is also critical of Scotland Yard's efforts to investigate the hacking.
January 21, 2011Coulson resigns as Cameron's communications chief.
January 26, 2011Scotland Yard opens a new investigation of News of the World phone-hacking, citing new evidence.
April 2011Recently fired News of the World senior editor Ian Edmondson, chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, and senior journalist James Weatherup are arrested on phone-hacking charges. The tabloid acknowledges its role in hacking from 2004 to 2006, apologizes, and sets up a compensation system for unidentified victims.
June 23, 2011Levi Bellfield is convicted of the murder of Milly Dowler, after a tabloid-saturated trial. Police arrest freelance journalist Terenia Taras.
July 4, 2011The scandal starts in earnest, after The Guardian reports the hacking and erasing of Milly Dowler's voicemail messages.
July 5, 2011The list of alleged targets of News of the World hacking grows to include victims of the July 7, 2005, terrorist attack in London. The BBC reports that News International had turned over evidence that Coulson apparently signed off on paying police for information.
July 6, 2011The Daily Telegraph reports that News of the World had hacked the phones of families of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Cameron says he is "revolted" by the allegations.
July 7, 2011News International Chairman James Murdoch announces that News of the World is closing after a final July 10 edition.
July 8, 2011Coulson is arrested, and Goodman is arrested again, this time for bribing police officers.
July 10, 2011The last News of the World hits newsstands. Rupert Murdoch arrives in Britain to take charge of the mushrooming scandal, telling reporters that Rebekah Brooks is his "top priority."
July 11, 2011The scandal spreads to other Murdoch papers, including The Sun and Sunday Times, as Gordon Brown accuses the papers of illegally obtaining his personal financial records and the medical records of his 4-year-old son with cystic fibrosis.
July 13, 2011Rupert Murdoch withdraws his long-sought bid for TV powerhouse British Sky Broadcasting, which days earlier was widely considered a done deal. News Corp. will retain its 39 percent stake in the company.
July 14, 2011Murdoch, his son James, and Rebekah Brooks agree to testify before a parliamentary committee on July 19. The FBI opens an inquiry into allegations that News of the World tried to intercept the phone records of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York. Former News of the World executive editor Neil Wallis is arrested.
July 15, 2011Brooks resigns as News International CEO. Her predecessor, Les Hinton, resigns as chairman of Murdoch's Dow Jones and publisher of The Wall Street Journal.
July 17, 2011Brooks is arrested. Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson, the highest-ranking U.K. police official, steps down, following the police-bribery allegations and revelations that he had hired Neil Wallis as a communications consultant.
July 18, 2011Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner John Yates, who made the decision not to reopen the phone-hacking investigation in 2009, resigns. Bloomberg reports that News Corp. directors are considering replacing Rupert Murdoch as CEO with chief operating officer Chase Carey.
July 19, 2011Rupert and James Murdoch deny any knowledge of the hacking before a skeptical parliamentary committee; Wendi Murdoch saves husband Rupert from a shaving-cream pie in the face with a swift, brutal counterattack against the thrower. Brooks testifies separately, issuing similar denials. News Corp.'s stock rises.
July 28, 2011
New evidence surfaces suggesting that News of the World hacked the voicemail of Sara Payne, whose daughter Sarah was abducted and murdered in July 2000. Payne had worked closely with the newspaper trying to pass tougher child protection laws, and the paper's editors had issued her the phone that was allegedly hacked. This is "the final indignity for the paper's former editor, Rebekah Brooks, who claimed to be a 'dear friend' of Payne's," says Jonathan Harwood at Britain's The First Post. Separately, a judicial inquiry is opened to determine if the country needs to update its laws regulating the media.
August 2, 2011
British police arrest their 11th suspect in the News of the World investigation. Journalist Stuart Kuttner, 71, is charged with conspiracy to intercept communications and corruption. In his former role as managing editor of the paper, Kuttner authorized all payments in the editorial budget, including any made to private investigators like Mulcaire. Separately, Jonathan May-Bowles, the British comedian who hit Murdoch with the shaving-cream pie, is sentenced to six weeks in jail for the attack.
August 10, 2011
Greg Miskiw, a former News of the World editor, is the 12th person arrested in the investigation. (He is quickly released on bail.) Murdoch vows to do "whatever is necessary" to prevent another scandal from upsetting his empire. And despite the bad press, News Corp.'s earnings for the April-to-June quarter top expectations.
October 21-24, 2011Murdoch fends off shareholder anger and revolt at News Corp's annual meeting. Sons James and Lachlan are re-elected to the News Corp. board, with more than a third of voting shareholders opposed.
November 3, 2011Scotland Yard says that 5,795 people likely had their phones hacked by News of the World.
November 4, 2011Police reportedly arrest a Sun reporter, Jamie Pyatt, in connection with the investigation of police bribery, Operation Elveden.
November 14, 2011Prime Minister Cameron opens a wide-ranging inquiry into the "culture, practices, and ethics of the press," headed by Lord Justice Levenson, an appellate court judge. Phone-hacking victims will testify.
February 11, 2012Police arrest five senior staff members at The Sun, along with three other people, in connection with Operation Elveden, bringing the police-bribery arrests to at least 20.
February 26, 2012Rupert Murdoch launches The Sun on Sunday to replace News of the World. He's accompanied by son Lachlan, in a sign that James Murdoch may be out as News Corp. heir apparent. The inaugural edition sells 3.26 million copies.
February 29, 2012James Murdoch steps down as chairman of News International, keeping his position as deputy chief operating officer at News Corp., focused on international TV operations.
March 13, 2012Rebekah Brooks is arrested for a second time, along with husband Charlie Brooks, News International security chief Mark Hanna, and three others, all charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in connection with the phone-hacking investigation, Operation Weeting. Five of the suspects, including Brooks, are released on bail.
April 3, 2012
James Murdoch resigns as chairman of BSkyB, the British satellite broadcaster partially owned by News Corp. The position was his "last major executive role in the British media," says John F. Burns at The New York Times.
Sources: AFP, BBC (2), Bloomberg, CNN (2), First Post, Guardian (2) (3) (4), Huffington Post (2), Los Angeles Times, MSNBC, New York Times (2), Politico, Reuters (2), Telegraph (2), Wikipedia (2), The Wrap