Murdoch denies planning to spin off UK newspapers

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LONDON (Reuters) – Rupert Murdoch has denied reports that News Corp is considering spinning off its British newspapers to protect the rest of his media empire from a phone hacking scandal.

The Daily Telegraph and the Financial Times newspapers said executives at the company were looking into ways to split off the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times, published by its News International unit.

However, Murdoch, chief executive of News Corp, said in a statement late on Friday: “News Corporation remains firmly committed to our publishing businesses, including News International, and any suggestion to the contrary is wholly inaccurate. Publishing is a core component of our future.”

British police are examining claims that journalists at the News of the World – a paper shut by Murdoch last July – routinely hacked into the phones of hundreds of celebrities, politicians and victims of crime to generate front-page stories.

They are also investigating whether staff hacked into computers and made illegal payments to public officials, including the police, to get ahead in their reporting.

The Daily Telegraph and the FT said News Corp was discussing putting the News International titles into a trust.

A News International spokeswoman hosed down the report, saying in a statement: “There are absolutely no plans to put News International into a separate trust.”

Selling the newspapers to one or more wealthy individuals was another option under consideration, the FT said, quoting two people familiar with the company.

They noted no decisions had been made and a spin-off or a sale might not happen, the FT added.

The Daily Telegraph said a proposal to go into a joint venture with a media partner was also on the table, without citing its sources.

(Reporting by Olesya Dmitracova and Tim Castle- Editing by Sophie Hares)

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