Passers-by walk past the News Corp building in New York, US. Picture: REUTERS
Passers-by walk past the News Corp building in New York, US. Picture: REUTERS

London — Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation agreed to a last-minute settlement before the start of a phone-hacking trial in London, avoiding another trial that would rake over incidents from more than a decade ago.

The deal was agreed for an undisclosed sum with four claimants — mainly B-list celebrities — who accuse the British publishing unit of hacking phones and deleting e-mail evidence at a time when James Murdoch was its executive chairman.

"I’d like to apologise for any inconvenience caused for these cases having settled right at the very last minute," David Sherbone, the claimants’ lawyer, said in court on Thursday. This is the second time the UK publisher has settled hacking claims as a trial was set to start.

The trial could have influenced a merger watchdog currently investigating Murdoch’s plan for 21st Century Fox to buy Sky for £11.7bn. The UK’s competition and markets authority (CMA) is scheduled to issue provisional findings this month on whether the Sky takeover would give Murdoch too much influence in the UK and if Fox upholds broadcasting standards. The CMA had said it would consider any evidence that emerged from the case.

News Corp is still facing about 50 more claims that are working their way to a trial, Sherborne said.

Bloomberg

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