News International to put Wapping to bed

The publisher has revealed it's planning to sell its iconic premises. Although that's arguably the least of its worries at the moment...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 06 Sep 2011
As four of its former executives settle in to what’s looking likely to be a long and arduous questioning over phone hacking, News International has stuck a ‘For Sale’ sign outside its Wapping premises, after it announced last night that it’s looking for a buyer for the site. The publisher has apparently decided to move its stable of titles – which includes the Times, the Sunday Times and the Sun – to premises at Thomas More Square, just round the corner from its current site, because ‘current market conditions’ mean it’s not worth redeveloping Wapping.

There’s been a lot of speculation about what’ll become of Wapping, despite the fact that in 2008, News Corp (NI’s parent company) reassured employees that it wouldn’t be leaving Wapping. At the time, it said it was planning to create a ‘campus’ for its UK businesses, which then included NI, publisher HarperCollins, Dow Jones, Fox and MySpace (which it has since sold). James Murdoch, News Corp’s UK boss, even went as far as to say that Wapping was a ‘symbol of how bold individuals, working together, can advance in the world of media and thereby contribute to life in Britain’.

That didn’t just refer to listening in on messages left on Hugh Grant’s phone, though: the Wapping site is a piece of newspaper history, synonymous with Rupert Murdoch’s fight against the print unions in the 1980s, when his decision to move from Fleet Street and replace a more than 4,000 jobs with automated processes resulted in ‘bloody battles’ between police and print unions at the gates. Remember Brenda Dean and SOGAT ’82? After 25 years at the site, though, the industry is in the throes of even greater change, and NI says it’s time to move on.

On the bright side, the sale could reportedly fetch up to £150m for the company – so we can see why it’s worth doing. Although whether that’ll put a lid on what’s been a difficult couple of months for the company is another question altogether…

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