'If it were possible, Rupert Murdoch would be doing cartwheels' – The hacking verdict, the media mogul and his empire

Chris Boffey is a former news editor of the Observer, Sunday Telegraph and the Mirror and onetime special adviser to the Labour government.

It has not been a good year for Rupert Murdoch. He discovered his wife had a pash for Tony Blair's taut bottom and Rebekah Brooks, the main woman at the centre of his professional life, was on trial at the Old Bailey.

Yesterday, it all got a lot better. If it were possible, the octogenarian Murdoch would be doing cartwheels. Brooks walked free from the court without a stain on her character (the Bailey hacks had predicted her acquittal, declaring that the prosecution never laid a glove on her) and importantly Stuart Kuttner, the former News of the World managing editor, was also found not guilty.

Of course Murdoch cares for Brooks. Before her arrest, when they were being mobbed by the paparazzi in the street, he maintained that his main concern was for his flame-haired friend, as the Sun might put it, but it was not just personal.

He knew that if Brooks, his chief executive in London, was in the clear she would become a seal between the mess that was going on underneath her and the corporate arm of the group.

The jury delivered a double lock in also deciding that Kuttner was innocent. He was the money man at the News of the World and knew everything. By clearing Kuttner, the jury were effectively saying the criminality stopped with Andy Coulson, the editor, and those who directly worked for and to him.

The Guardian, the leader in uncovering the sorry hacking saga, was cock-a-hoop with its exclusive that Scotland Yard detectives were wanting to question Murdoch about his involvement but the reality is that in clearing the two layers of command the jury has effectively given Murdoch another not guilty verdict. Rusbridger is going to have to work a lot harder to finger Rupert.

The Times coverage of the end of the trial shows the way the corporate spinners are working. Other splashes were about Coulson being guilty or Cameron apologising but the Thunderer, which got rid of its former editor James Harding for being too neutral about hacking, concentrates on the acquittal of Brooks and all her entourage. Tomorrow it will all be politics and the furore at PMQs.

For the media the end of the trial was a bit messy. The jury is still out on a couple of charges against Coulson and Clive Goodman, the former News of the World royal editor, and that caused reporting issues. But the major problems were two fold: anything scurrilous or sensational in the background that would have been used on Brooks had to be ditched (I understand Panorama are particularly upset) and the BBC and ITV could not make their minds up whether it was a media sensation or a political bombshell and they consequently fell between two stools.

No matter what happens with the outstanding charges, it is presumed that Coulson will be jailed but the jury's decision has implications for the future. The Crown Prosecution Service will be making decisions on those former News International staff still on bail and making trial dates for those who have been charged. They will be looking very carefully at the evidence of Dan Evans, a former Sunday Mirror reporter, who said he was hired to go over to the NoW because of his hacking expertise. Those celebrities who are taking civil actions against the Mirror Group will also have a spring in their step.

The prosecution lawyers will be upset about Brooks et al but reassured that the verdict puts it down to a maverick editor running an out-of-control operation with the knowledge and connivance of some of his staff. The single rogue reporter defence was never a good one but the narrative of the rogue editor and his band of outlaws may not have been what Murdoch consciously wanted but is perfect for the future of his empire.

During the height of the hacking stories, Murdoch split his group to keep the potentially toxic British arm away from his US interests. Two years on the sum of the parts is making even more money than the single group.

If not cartwheels, at least trebles all round for Murdoch and his family.