Who knew? James Murdoch's unheralded resignation as director of companies of the three British newspapers that were Rupert Murdoch's springboard to dominate world media means no member of the Murdoch family now sits on the boards of the flagship British newspapers.
More symbolic than commercially significant, Murdoch's youngest son quit in September. Discovery of his flight has raised speculation the company may eventually walk away from the British newspapers, not least perhaps because they are increasingly peripheral to News Corp's worldwide operations.
The family's decision to remain mum about its symbolic retreat from the boards of the famous papers acquired and used by Murdoch snr to turn himself into one of Britain's most influential powerbrokers coincides with the ongoing News of the World hacking scandal.
A second British inquiry this week began hearings into the scandal, film stars Hugh Grant and Sienna Miller joining comedian Steve Coogan, author J. K. Rowling, businessman Max Mosley, former footballers and football WAG Sheryl Gascoigne in unanimously tipping buckets on the media generally and Murdoch's newspapers specifically.
James Murdoch's two-month-old resignation was only publicly acknowledged on Thursday after it was reported in the London Evening Standard. A reporter had examined filings at Companies House, the government agency where privately-owned businesses in Britain file financial statements and other corporate documents, and discovered Murdoch's exit.
His two dissembling appearances before the House of Commons culture, media and sport committee inquiry into the hacking scandal has raised serious questions about his managerial style. At the first, he sat at his father's side in July. The decision to absent himself from the boards was taken before his second lone performance early this month.
Public revelation of the retreat is one of a series of hits taken by the Murdoch empire as the hacking scandal continued to swirl around the world.
In Australia, the Herald reported police were investigating former Queensland National Party senator Bill O'Chee's allegations that an unidentified Murdoch executive offered him favourable newspaper coverage and ''a special relationship'' in return for voting against John Howard's digital TV legislation. His allegations further fuelled concerns about News Ltd ownership of 70 per cent of Australian newspapers voiced at the Gillard government's media inquiry.
Outgoing News Ltd chairman John Hartigan denied the allegations of improper conduct by any executive. ''The executive referred to in today's report, Malcolm Colless, has confirmed that no improper conversation took place during the 1998 lunch with former Nationals senator O'Chee,'' he said.
The inquiry ordered by Britain's Prime Minister, David Cameron, last July and headed by Lord Justice Leveson began hearings in which the almost carnival coverage of testimony by celebrities and public figures was counterpointed by that of anguished parents of missing children who told how News of the World had traduced their trust and heartlessly raised false hopes.
Sally Dowler recalled the moment she called into her daughter Milly's voicemails after the schoolgirl went missing in 2002 and found some of the messages deleted, giving her hope that Milly was alive. She said she called her husband, Bob, to say: ''She's alive.''
Revelations messages had been deleted by the News of the World after hacking the phone caused such outrage that Rupert Murdoch closed the 168-year-old newspaper. The Dowlers said they did not sleep for three days after police told them earlier this year the phone had been hacked. Milly's father, Bob Dowler, told the inquiry: ''One would sincerely hope that News International and other media organisations would look very carefully at how they procure and how they maintain information about stories … It's quite concerning because, however polite people are, you really are afraid to open the front door because you're faced with a question and then however you respond to that question might lead to a headline of one line or two.''
Kate and Gerry McCann's three-year-old daughter Madeleine disappeared from Portugal in 2007 and has never been found. Kate McCann told the inquiry she felt violated when her private diary in which she wrote letters to Madeleine was published in News of the World.
''I had written these words at the most desperate time of my life and it was my only way of communicating with Madeleine … There was absolutely no respect shown for me as a grieving mother or a human being or to my daughter. It made me feel very vulnerable and small,'' she said.
The diary was given to Portuguese police as evidence, apparently stolen and passed to the News of the World. The then assistant editor, Ian Edmondson, told the couple's spokesperson a positive story would be running about Madeleine that weekend but said nothing about the diary. ''It gave the impression that we were willing to capitalise financially on inherently private information, which could not have been further from the truth,'' Gerry McCann said.
Twenty-one witnesses gave evidence. All spoke of their privacy being invaded. Some shifted anger from Murdoch newspapers to other British tabloids like the Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday; others targeted paparazzi. The actor Hugh Grant delivered a bravura performance. He called upon fellow Britons to stand up to ''cowardly'' behaviour of the ''privacy-invasion industry'' and claimed hacking fuelled a story about his 2007 break-up with socialite and newspaper columnist Jemima Khan.
Grant won a libel payout but admitted he had no firm evidence for his allegation. ''Most shocking is that this has been allowed to go on for so long with no one putting their hand up and saying stop,'' Grant said, accusing newspaper barons of intimidating the police, MPs and the government.
The comedian Steve Coogan said he had gained access to notebooks of a private detective employed by the News of the World who was jailed in 2007 for hacking. Coogan said they contained details of his phone account and password, as well as his withdrawals from an ATM. Coogan, a fixture in Britain's tabloids due to a complicated love life that included a relationship with American singer Courtney Love, also alleged that Andy Coulson, the newspaper's former editor, had lured him into a recorded telephone conversation with a woman to reveal details of an affair. Coogan said Coulson then rang his manager, saying they were going to run the story and gave assurances that lurid details would be left out, which Coogan says were just a ruse to get him talking. ''It's like the mafia, it's just business,'' Coogan said.
Australian Mary-Ellen Field, a former business adviser to Elle Macpherson, told how she was fired after the supermodel - who is now working for Murdoch's Sky Living channel - thought she had leaked information to the media but it subsequently emerged the story resulted from phone hacking.
Author JK Rowling said she felt ''under siege'' from intrusive journalists, who staked out her house and slipped a note into her five-year-old daughter's schoolbag. ''I felt such a sense of invasion,'' Rowling said. ''It's very difficult to say how angry I felt that my five-year-old daughter's school was no longer a place of complete security from journalists.''
The creator of boy wizard Harry Potter said media interest began shortly after the publication of her first novel in 1997 and soon escalated, photographers and reporters being frequently stationed outside her home. ''It feels threatening to have people watching you,'' she said.
Sienna Miller was left paranoid and scared by years of relentless tabloid pursuit that ranged from paparazzi outside her home to hacking her mobile. Miller, 29, became a tabloid staple when she dated fellow actor Jude Law. ''For a number of years I was relentlessly pursued by 10 to 15 men, almost daily, spat at, verbally abused,'' she said. ''I would often find myself, at the age of 21, at midnight, running down a dark street on my own with 10 men chasing me. And the fact they had cameras in their hands made that legal.''
Max Mosley campaigned for a privacy law since his penchant for sadomasochistic sex was exposed in a 2008 News of the World story headlined ''Formula One boss has sick Nazi orgy with five hookers''. Mosley argued that the story - obtained with a hidden camera - was an ''outrageous'' invasion of privacy. He said the Nazi allegation was damaging and ''completely untrue''.
Mosley, son of the late Sir Oswald Mosley, founder of the British Union of Fascists, also spoke about his son's death after the story. He told the inquiry Alexander Mosley had been extremely intelligent but had suffered from depression and used drugs to cope with it. He added that he had tried to overcome his addiction. ''He was struggling with it - he had overcome his problem - and the News of the World story had the most devastating effect on him,'' he said.
He had undertaken legal action to have stories removed from websites. ''You work all your life to try and achieve something or do something useful and suddenly something like this happens and that's what you're remembered for,'' he said.
The Leveson inquiry continues next year. The House of Commons inquiry, where Wendi Deng famously protected her husband, Rupert Murdoch, from a pie-thrower, is expected to report by year's end.
Despite having stepped away from British newspapers, James Murdoch continues as chairman of British Sky Broadcasting, Britain's most powerful satellite broadcaster and one of News Corp's most lucrative businesses. He reputedly does not share his father's passion for print.