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Murdoch speculation suggests UK newspaper business could close if criminal charges are brought

Lawyers speculating on Rupert Murdoch's intentions for his publishing empire have said that closure or a sell off of his entire UK newspaper business, including titles such as The Times, the Sunday Times and The Sun, could happen should charges be brought against News UK in relation to phone hacking and bribery of public officials.

The ‘nuclear option’ would be a bid to prevent any fallout from the affair from damaging Murdoch’s commercial interests in the US, according to Anil Rajani of IBB Law. He told The Telegraph: “News UK can’t be charged as a corporate entity if it doesn’t exist as a corporation. And if a company is in the process of being wound up, it also counts as a factor against prosecution.”

It follows confirmation that the Metropolitan Police are now treating the company as a corporate suspect in its investigation, opening the possibility of corporate charges being brought against it.

Such a move would criminalise the entire board and have serious repercussions for commercial interests across the pond.

The legal wheeze would enable Murdoch to evade this turn of events by winding up News UK so that it cannot be charged as a corporate entity – as it no longer exists.

Such an extreme measure would have drastic consequences in the UK however, where 46,000 jobs would be at risk subject to the successful sale of the titles.

Earlier this year News Corp cleaved its business in two, putting distance between its struggling newspaper and publishing business and its highly profitable film and television divisions.