Murdoch to launch Sun on Sunday this week

Tycoon to oversee paper's birth

LONDON — Rupert Murdoch’s new Sun on Sunday will bow Feb. 26 — and for Murdoch that day can’t come too soon.

The tycoon plans to remain in London to supervise the launch of a paper that has been in the cards ever since News Corp. shuttered the News of the World last July, when the phone-hacking scandal went toxic.

Announcing the launch date, News International’s CEO Tom Mockridge hailed the move “as a truly historic moment in newspaper publishing.”

In his statement, Mockridge added that News Corp. “has made clear its determination to sort out what has gone wrong in the past and we are fundamentally changing how we operate as a business.”

Commentators were divided on the wisdom of launching a Sunday edition of the Sun when the U.K. newspaper biz is in decline and the phone hacking and police corruption scandal shows no sign of ending.

But in the avowedly anti-Murdoch Guardian Roy Greenslade, a one-time assistant editor on the Sun, saw next Sunday’s debut as proof that Rupert Murdoch has finally rediscovered his old, buccaneering self.

Greenslade wrote, “This astonishing initiative is all about one angry man, having suffered a setback that looked as if it might end in him sacrificing his British media interests, striking back to save his empire.

“It’s personal, not corporate.

“He wants to show his staff, the politicians, the rest of Fleet Street, the readers, News Corp.’s investors — indeed, the world — that he will not go quietly.”

Other media sages have been more skeptical. The Guardian’s former editor Peter Preston, writing in the Observer, said a Sunday Sun could backfire if more journos at the paper are arrested on allegations of bribing public officials, or if charges are eventually brought against any of the 10 arrested to date.

It remains to be seen if the Sun on Sunday — or SOS as it’s been nicknamed — is a hit with U.K. readers, many of whom stopped buying a Sunday newspaper when the News of the World closed.