Who is Tom Mockridge?

Unlike Rebekah Brooks, News International's new chief executive has so far avoided the spotlight.

Tom Mockridge, who is replacing Rebekah Brooks as chief executive of News International with immediate effect, is the man in the spotlight today.

So who exactly is the former head of Sky Italia? A quick look through his career path so far shows that he has held a variety of executive roles in News Corporation, stretching back two decades.

Mockridge started out as a financial journalist in his native New Zealand, before moving to Australia. After several years in newspapers, he became an adviser to the former Australian prime minister, Paul Keating, while Keating was Treasurer in the 1980s.

In January 1991, Mockridge joined Murdoch's Australian holding company for newspapers. He was assistant CEO at the company for five years, before becoming head of Foxtel, News Corp's Australian pay-TV service. He later held various roles at Star Group, Murdoch's Asian group.

Following a stint back in New Zealand, heading up the country's largest newspaper group, Independent Newspapers, part owned by News Corp, Mockridge moved to Italy in 2002 to be head of Sky Italia. Since 2009, he has been a non-executive director of BSkyB.

But beyond his curriculum vitae, what do we know about the man himself?

An executive who avoids the spotlight and unlike his predecessor, avoids controversy, it is difficult to find many interviews with him. However, this 2004 profile outlines his role in Italy, claiming that Murdoch "hand-picked" Mockridge to take on President Silvio Berlusconi:

If you were Rupert Murdoch and you wanted to put your best man opposite Berlusconi for a big fight, you might choose the exact opposite of the Italian PM. That probably describes Tom Mockridge, the chief executive of Sky Italia and the man charged by Murdoch with imposing the highly successful UK pay-TV model on the Italian landscape.

While Silvio is never out of the headlines, Tom is almost never in them. He rarely gives interviews and when he does it's only if he thinks they will help him attract more subscribers, according to a colleague based in News Corp's New York offices.

The profile paints a picture of a man with forensic focus, saying that he is likely to be"reading every page of a 60-page legal document to ensure that his company's strategies are on track." It also states that he is politically aware -- crucial if he is to step into the breach for this crisis:

"Tom is very politically interested," said former colleague and current COO of Fox International Channels David Haslingden. "He understands the various political agendas. Wherever he goes -- whether it's New Zealand, Hong Kong or Italy - he has a good understanding of what's going on politically and that's very helpful."

The Guardian's Rome correspondent John Hooper adds to this impression:

A model of discretion, he is seldom noticed in public and rarely gives interviews. I have spoken to him only once, and there are plenty of correspondents in Rome and Milan who could not even say that.

In conclusion, Mockridge is almost the exact opposite to Brooks, who in recent weeks has been at the very centre of the media storm around News International. We can safely assume that we will be seeing a lot more of this quiet man in the weeks to come.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

Felipe Araujo
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Hull revisited: What happens when a Brexit stronghold becomes City of Culture?

We report from Hull, to find out if you can replace the kind of nostalgia that led to a Leave vote with cultural investment.

At 75 metres long, the offshore wind turbine blade erected across Queen Victoria Square, in the heart of Hull, is a sculpture intended to mark a new chapter in the city’s history. For the next 12 months, Hull, a city of more than a quarter of a million people in the northeast of England, will be the UK’s City of Culture.

The 28-tonne blade hails from the local Siemens plant. The German technology company employs around 1,000 people in the area, making it Hull’s biggest single employer.

Seen up close in this context – laid dormant in the middle of a town square instead of spinning up in the air generating energy – the structure is meant to remind passersby of a giant sea creature. It is also, I’m told, an allusion to Hull’s rich maritime history.


All photos: Felipe Araujo

Nostalgia is a big thing in this part of the country. At one point, Hull was the UK’s third largest port but technology and privatisation drastically changed that. The battle over cod fishing with Iceland in the waters of the North Sea 40 years ago has also dealt a major blow to a region with a long and proud trawling tradition.

People here still talk about a bygone era when the fishing industry provided jobs for everyone and there was enough money to go around.

Fast forward to 2017, and the country’s new capital of culture is the same city that voted 67 per cent in favour of leaving the EU last June. Its new-found prestige, it seems, is not enough to erase years of neglect by a political class “too busy for commoners like us”, as one resident puts it.

“More than a message to Brussels, it [the Brexit vote] was a message to Westminster,” Paul Leeson-Taylor, a filmmaker born and bred in Hull, tells me. “For the first time in a long time people in Hull felt like they had the chance to change something, and they took it.”

But while speaking to people on the high street and hanging out with locals at the Community Boxing Club in Orchard Park, one of the city’s most deprived areas, there is one word that consistently popped up in conversation – more than any specific policy from Westminster or the much-hated rules “dictated” by Brussels. Foreigners.

According to official figures, Hull’s population is 89.1 per cent white British. Still, immigration is big on people’s minds here.

During my two-day stay in the city, I find myself being the only black person in most places I visit – I’m certainly the only black guy at the boxing club. So when someone begins a sentence with “I’m not racist but…”, I know a tirade on immigrants is about to ensue.

“There are just too many of them,” Nick Beach, an estate agent whose Polish clientele is a big part of his business, tells me as he is about to teach a boxing class to local children. Beach was born in Shepherd’s Bush, in West London, but has been living in Hull for the last 20 years.

“When I go down there these days and go into Westfield shopping centre, it is very rare you get an English person serving you now,” he says. “I just find it disappointing that you go into your capital city and you are a minority there.”

These are the much-discussed “left behind”, a white working-class community that has gained particular prominence in a time of Brexit and Donald Trump. Under economic pressure and facing social change, they want to have their say in running a country they claim to no longer recognise.

For Professor Simon Lee, a senior politics lecturer at the University of Hull, immigration is only a superficial layer when it comes to explaining the resentment I witness here. For him, the loss of the empire 70 years ago is still something that as a country Britain hasn’t come to terms with.

“The reason for us to be together as a United Kingdom has gone, so what is the project?”

As destiny would have it, a foreign company will now play a major role on Hull’s economic future, at least in the short term. In the wake of the Brexit vote, there were widespread fears Siemens would pull out of the region and take its factory elsewhere. With the massive blade looming large in the background, Jason Speedy, director of the blade factory in Hull, assures me that isn’t the case.

“The Brexit decision has made no difference. We have made our investment decision, so Siemens, together with the Association of British Ports, has put in £310m. It’s all full steam ahead.”

As Hull becomes the country’s cultural hub for the next few months, the hope is that its residents stop looking back and start looking forward.

For Professor Lee, though, until there is a complete change in the power structures that run the country, the north-south divide will remain – with or without the EU. “The way you kill nostalgia is to have something new,” he said. “The reason why people here are nostalgic is because there is nothing to replace it with.”

Felipe Araujo is a freelance journalist based in London. He writes about race, culture and sports. He covered the Rio Olympics and Paralympics on the ground for the New Statesman. He tweets @felipethejourno.