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What Will Phone Hacking Really Cost Murdoch?

The true cost of the phone hacking scandal surging through Rupert Murdoch's British media empire has not yet emerged, with new developments still emerging every hour, and the Australian-born tycoon's reputation in question from New York to Sydney.

Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and CEO of News Corporation, attends the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference with his wife Wendi on July 7, 2011 in Sun Valley, Idaho.
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Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and CEO of News Corporation, attends the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference with his wife Wendi on July 7, 2011 in Sun Valley, Idaho.

We can make an educated guess at how the fallout may hit News Corp , the cornerstone of Murdoch's $7.6 billion fortune, however.

The company has to pay BSkyB a 38.5 million pound ($62 million) break fee for pulling out of a deal to buy the rest of the broadcaster, after more than a week of condemnation from British politicians on all sides.

There is a £20 million fund set aside to compensate the thousands of victims of phone hacking.

News Corp will also have to hand over fees to Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan Cazenove, the investment banks advising it on the planned £7.9 billion acquisition of the 61 percent of BSkyB it does not already own.

BSkyB will have to pay its advisers, Morgan Stanley and UBS.

Most financially damaging to the Murdoch family is the decline in News Corp and BSkyB's share price.

Murdoch owns around 12 percent of News Corp, which has lost around £4 billion off its market value within a week, or close to £450 million from the Murdochs' stake. Another £1.5 billion has been knocked off the value of BSkyB.

While Murdoch is unlikely to lose his fortune, he will probably slip down the Forbes Billionaires List.

Questions in Parliament

Both Rupert and James Murdoch were summoned to appear in front of a committee of British MPs on Tuesday, despite both men claiming that they cannot attend.

Controversial executive Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International, the British newspaper wing of News Corp, who was editor of the News of the World while some of the alleged phone hacking occurred, said she would appear.

Nick Clegg, the British Deputy Prime Minister, said Thursday: "Firstly we need to look at whether they have got the power and the ability to compel them. If someone cannot be compelled I don't know whether we can frogmarch them to the select committee. But if they have any shred of sense of responsibility or accountability for their position of power then they should come and explain themselves to the select committee."

Now, rumours are swirling about whether James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch's youngest son, will continue in his position as chairman of BSkyB and News International.

Andrew Neil, the BBC presenter who rose as high as Brooks in Murdoch's media empire during the 1980s, tweeted Thursday morning: "Wapping insider: James Murdoch won't survive #hackgate. He must step down as NI chairman. Ends Rupert's dream of creating media dynasty."

Shareholder group Pensions & Investment Research Consultants (PIRC) called for him to stand down from BSkyB to clear up the "questionable governance practices" at the company.

While another bid for the rest of BSkyB could eventually emerge, it is unlikely to come for at least three years, according to Alex DeGroote, media analyst at Panmure Gordon.

He believes that the fallout from phone hacking will take at least two years to clear, and, even if another bid was tabled after that, it will be carefully scrutinised by the British authorities and take at least a year to complete.

"If the criminal investigation in the UK takes another leap forward, obviously the risk profile for the US becomes even higher," he told CNBC Thursday.

For the 80-year old billionaire, who until very recently had the British political establishment clamouring for his approval, this crisis is not going away.

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