One month ago, News Corp. issued a press release announcing the surprise and abrupt departure of Lawrence Jacobs, its general counsel. A longtime advisor to the company's chairman and a member of his innermost circle (i.e. "Rupert Murdoch's Right Hand Man"), Jacobs was a key player in Murdoch's controversial purchase of the Wall Street Journal, as well as other key acquisitions.
The Jacobs news was greeted with some head scratching within the corporate and legal worlds in part because News Corp. had no replacement to announce at the time of Jacobs' departure. Also, the only public explanation given in June was that Jacobs was leaving his seven-figure job to “pursue new opportunities.”
Fast forward one month though, and who inside News Corp. could have known the gaping hole Jacob's departure would leave at a time when the global media behemoth struggles with its most serious corporate crisis ever and finds itself flanked with mounting legal woes? Or that at this time of upheaval, Murdoch would find himself without one of his closest advisers, as well as his veteran legal counsel; someone whose judgment Murdoch trusts "completely"?
The result of News Corp.'s unexpected executive suite exit? Its legal team is in a state of “disarray,” according to a Reuters report:
Amid the biggest legal crisis in News Corp's history, its in-house law department is in a state of upheaval.
What's interesting in looking back at Jacobs' abrupt departure last month is that even then the long-simmer phone-hacking scandal was tainting Murdoch's top executives.
The New York Times headline announcing Jacobs' departure:
General Counsel of News Corp. Resigns in Wake of Settlement
Noted the Times:
While Mr. Jacobs is not known to have had any involvement in the matter, he was the highest ranking legal officer in the media conglomerate during a period when the subsidiary that owns The News of the World, News International, was forced to apologize and pay out settlements to celebrities and others who had their phone voice mail systems hacked.
And remember, this was the before the scandal blew up further in July and began consuming News Corp.
As Murdoch's public free fall continues, I wonder if Jacobs is content pursuing his “new opportunities.”