News Corp to Sell Wapping Site
From The Wall Street Journal:
By MARIETTA CAUCHI And LILLY VITOROVICH
LONDON—News Corp.’s embattled U.K. newspaper division put its East London headquarters up for sale Monday, after a turbulent 25-year history at the site.
In a brief statement, News International said the decision to sell the 15-acre site at Wapping follows a review of its London property portfolio.
The Wapping facility has been home to the printing operations of the media giant’s U.K. titles since 1986, when Chief Executive and Chairman Rupert Murdoch relocated the business from Fleet Street, prompting a fierce trade-union dispute as the introduction of electronic production techniques led to the dismissal of thousands of workers.
More recently, News International has been embroiled in controversy surrounding allegations of phone hacking at its News of the World tabloid newspaper, which closed in July as a result of the scandal.
News International said most of its Wapping-based editorial and commercial staff have already moved into an adjacent development at Thomas More Square, with the remainder to shift by the end of 2011.
The company originally had planned to redevelop the Wapping site but said that “in light of current market conditions, News International has decided not to proceed with remodelling the site.” No further details were released.
It is the third time News International has put the site up for sale, after failing to pull off a deal in 2003 and again in 2008, when the property market tumbled from historic highs and News International decided to take the site off the market and redevelop it instead. But the company said at the time that it would wait until market conditions improved before it started the redevelopment.
That moment never came and the site was put back on the market Monday. The company wouldn’t be drawn on a price tag, although in 2008 the site was valued at around £200 million ($324.34 million).
News International publishes The Times, The Sunday Times and The Sun newspapers. Parent company News Corp. publishes The Wall Street Journal.
The announcement comes 24 hours before a second parliamentary-committee inquiry into phone hacking at News Corp.’s defunct News of the World tabloid. The inquiry is expected to focus on when top executives at News International became aware of the extent of phone-hacking practices at the company.
The Culture, Media and Sport Committee—which questioned Rupert Murdoch and his son James Murdoch, News Corp.’s deputy chief operating officer, about the phone-hacking in July—will hear from four former News Corp. employees who have challenged testimony given to the committee by James Murdoch and Les Hinton, a former executive chairman of the unit.