News Corp. execs were worried that Oakeshott wouldn't be receptive to their overtures. In one email to James Murdoch's aide, Matthew Anderson, and Rebekah Brooks, chief executive at News International, Michel described Oakeshott as "a difficult character [who] hates lobbying (and doesn't like our empire either2026)."
So Michel, the lobbyist, suggested that they arrange a meeting between Oakeshott and James Harding, editor in chief of The Times. From the email, dated Oct. 12, 2010:
On Oct. 18, Michel wrote that Oakeshott would also be "VERY receptive" to a message from Patience Wheatcroft, then the editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe:
That November, Wheatcroft left The Journal after she was named to the House of Lords as a member of the Conservative party, by Prime Minister David Cameron.
It is not clear whether Harding and Wheatcroft were actually asked to lobby Oakeshott. A spokeswoman for Harding said that "there was never a meeting between James Harding and Lord Oakeshott," but did not say whether News Corp. officials had asked Harding to have such a meeting. Wheatcroft did not respond to our requests for comment, nor did Oakeshott.
A News Corp. spokesman declined to comment on any of the emails.
Apart from raising questions about Rupert Murdoch's claim that there was no use of his media holdings to further his company's interests, the emails document a more general strategy to turn media coverage of the deal in favor of News Corp. in order to give political cover to the minister, Vince Cable, who could approve the deal:
Cable was removed from the bid approval process after he was recorded by journalists saying he had "declared war" on Murdoch. Cable was replaced by Jeremy Hunt, with whom News Corp. appears to have had more luck 2014 the emails point to close communication between Hunt's aide and News Corp. about how best to push approval of the BSkyB buyout. Hunt said Wednesday that he "didn't know the volume of those communications or the tone" of the interactions between his aide and News Corp. The Guardian also reported Wednesday that in 2009 Hunt was at News Corp. headquarters in New York during the company's meetings on whether to launch the bid.
News Corp. threw the support of its British newspapers behind Cameron's Conservative party in the 2010 elections, shortly before the BSkyB bid was announced. Cameron has maintained that he had had no "inappropriate conversations" with Murdoch about the deal.
Competing news organizations and others had opposed the deal because they said it would further concentrate the media power of Murdoch, who controls 40 percent of Britain's newspaper circulation. The bid was eventually put on hold when news of phone-hacking by Murdoch papers broke last summer and engulfed the company in scandal.
This story was originally published by the independent, non-profit newsroom ProPublica.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.