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.

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It's not WhatsApp that was at fault in the Westminster attacks. It's our prisons

Britain's criminal justice system neither deterred nor rehabilitated Khalid Masood, and may even have facilitated his radicalisation. 

The dust has settled, the evidence has been collected and the government has decided who is to blame for the attack on Westminster. That’s right, its WhatsApp and their end-to-end encryption of messages. Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, wants tech companies to install a backdoor into messages like these that the government can then access.

There are a couple of problems here, not least that Adrian Russell aka Khalid Masood was known to the security services but considered to be low-risk. Even if the government had had the ability to gain entry to his WhatsApp, they wouldn’t have used it. Then there’s the fact that end-to-end encryption doesn’t just protect criminals and terrorists – it protects users from criminals and terrorists. Any backdoor will be vulnerable to attack, not only from our own government and foreign powers, but by non-state actors including fraudsters, and other terrorists.

(I’m parking, also, the question of whether these are powers that should be handed to any government in perpetuity, particularly one in a country like Britain’s, where near-unchecked power is handed to the executive as long as it has a parliamentary majority.)

But the biggest problem is that there is an obvious area where government policy failed in the case of Masood: Britain’s prisons system.

Masood acted alone though it’s not yet clear if he was merely inspired by international jihadism – that is, he read news reports, watched their videos on social media and came up with the plan himself – or he was “enabled” – that is, he sought out and received help on how to plan his attack from the self-styled Islamic State.

But what we know for certain is that he was, as is a recurring feature of the “radicalisation journey”, in possession of a string of minor convictions from 1982 to 2002 and that he served jail time. As the point of having prisons is surely to deter both would-be offenders and rehabilitate its current occupants so they don’t offend again, Masood’s act of terror is an open-and-shut case of failure in the prison system. Not only he did prison fail to prevent him committing further crimes, he went on to commit one very major crime.  That he appears to have been radicalised in prison only compounds the failure.

The sad thing is that not so very long ago a Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice was thinking seriously about prison and re-offending. While there was room to critique some of Michael Gove’s solutions to that problem, they were all a hell of a lot better than “let’s ban WhatsApp”. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.