Lawrence "Lon" Jacobs, the general counsel of media giant News Corp. and a confidant of Chairman and Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch, is leaving the company after 15 years.
Jacobs, 56, played a key role in several major media deals over the years, including News Corp.'s acquisitions of the Wall Street Journal and the social-networking site MySpace. Besides his duties as general counsel, he was also one of seven executives who served in Murdoch's Office of the Chairman, which acts as an advisory board of sorts for the company's leadership.
"I will always be grateful to Lon not only for his wise counsel, but for his key role in helping build News Corp. into one of the world's largest and most successful diversified media companies," Murdoch said in statement.
The departure of Jacobs comes at a difficult time for the media company as it tries to clean up a large legal mess in Britain over an investigation into phone hacking of celebrities and politicians by News Corp.-owned newspapers.
Jacobs also took heat — unfairly, some say — for News Corp.'s decision to settle a lawsuit filed against it by Valassis Communications Inc., a coupon company that alleged that the media giant was engaged in anti-competitive practices. News Corp. paid $500 million to settle the lawsuit.
Jacobs said in a statement that he had "personally reached the point in my life where it seems appropriate, and exciting, to try something new.
People close to Jacobs said he had been bumping up against other News Corp. executives, including Joel Klein, the former head of education for New York City who joined the media giant last year as an executive vice president and a member of Murdoch's Office of the Chairman. Klein is also a lawyer who once served as antitrust chief at the Justice Department and was previously chief executive of Bertelsmann Inc.
News Corp. did not immediately name Jacobs' successor. Although Klein would seem to be a likely candidate to replace Jacobs, a company spokesman said he was not in the running and was focused on education initiatives. A search will be conducted both inside and outside the company for a replacement.