Tom Mockridge started his career as a national newspaper journalist working for the chief rival to Rupert Murdoch’s interests in Australia.
Yet since joining the Murdochs in 1991, the native New Zealander and former economics editor of the Sydney Morning Herald has risen through the ranks of the global corporation to run Sky Italia, a pay-TV business that is almost twice the size of News International’s operations in the UK in terms of staff and profits.
“He has a strong journalistic background,” said one insider. “He understands newspapers and the business of newspapers.”
Perhaps more importantly given the current crisis facing Wapping, Mockridge has also shown an ability to work through a complicated political and regulatory situation. In Italy, where he was founding chief executive of Sky Italia from late 2002, he was responsible for setting up an award-winning rolling 24-hour news service, TG24, in direct competition with the state broadcaster RAI and Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset. The Murdochs own 100% of Sky Italia, which has operating profits of more than $200m (£124m) and which employs 4,500 people directly.
“”He is a strong and competent manager. He is not very flappable and is hugely experienced,” said the insider.
Mockridge, the father of two young children, has also worked closely with James Murdoch, who oversees News Corp.’s (NSDQ: NWS) European and Asian businesses and is his immediate boss within the company hierarchy, when he worked briefly for Star TV in 2000.
Mockridge joined Rupert Murdoch’s business as the right hand man to Ken Cowley, the long-time family associate then running News Limited in Australia. He started his career on a local paper in New Zealand in the late 1970s before moving to the Sydney Morning Herald. It is not clear whether he coincided with Robert Thomson there, another antipodean who has gained Murdoch’s favour and edited the Times before moving to New York in late 2007 to run the Wall Street Journal.
Mockridge left journalism for a brief period to work as press adviser to Paul Keating, the former Australian prime minister, when he was treasurer in the Labor government of the 1980s.
After six years working with Murdoch’s Australian newspaper business, Mockridge was awarded a chief executive position at Foxtel, a pay-TV joint venture.
Since then his position as one of the Murdochs’ key lieutenants has been confirmed by his handling of the family’s interests at the wholly owned Sky Italia.
James Murdoch was full of praise for Mockridge on Friday in his statement confirming his move to Wapping. “Tom is an outstanding executive with unrivalled experience across our journalism and television businesses,” he said. “He has proven himself to be a very effective operator in his time at Sky Italia.
“Under his leadership, Sky has grown to become one of the world’s most successful pay-TV businesses, reaching close to 5 million homes and launching channels like TG24 which has set a new standard for independent journalism in Italy.”
This article originally appeared in Guardian.