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In a surprise announcement today News Corporation said senior executive vice president and general counsel Lawrence “Lon” Jacobs is leaving to “pursue new opportunities.” The company did not name a successor and a spokesman wouldn’t discuss the change. Jacobs, 56, has been with the media giant for 15 years and played a key role in several major media deals, including the company’s purchase of the Wall Street Journal. He also engineered the $500 million settlement in January 2010 with Valassis Communications Inc. Valassis, a coupon company, had claimed News Corp. was engaged in anti-competitive practices. In a press release, Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corp., said, “I will always be grateful to Lon not only for his wise counsel, but for his key role in helping build News Corporation into one of the world’s largest and most successful diversified media companies.” Jacobs helped create the Fox TV network and worked on the acquisitions of MySpace and Dow Jones. Jacobs said in the release, “I have had the great privilege of calling News Corporation my home for a decade and a half. Although it is never easy to choose the perfect time to leave, I am proud of what we have achieved and I have personally reached the point in my life where it seems appropriate, and exciting, to try something new.” Jacobs, 56, said he will focus on philanthropic work, including efforts “to expand educational opportunities to underserved communities.” The GC, who has a special-needs daughter, also actively supports the Special Olympics and similar groups, said those who know him. He joined News Corp. in 1996 as deputy general counsel and became group general counsel in 2004, replacing Arthur Siskind, who retired. Jacobs began his career at Squadron, Ellenoff, Plesent & Sheinfeld, (now part of Hogan Lovells U.S.), where he was a partner from 1991 until 1996. Jacobs discussed his job in this excerpt from a 2008 interview with Super Lawyers magazine: “I think that your job is to figure out how to say yes,” says Jacobs, who tells Murdoch “no” about 10 percent of the time. Sometimes there’s no legal component. “The other 80 percent of the time it’s my job really to evaluate the risk reward. Will this deal get through? Will it survive antitrust scrutiny? Will it be approved by the shareholders? What sort of lawsuits will result from taking this action and what are the chances that you’re going to lose?”

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