'Wall Street Journal' faces probe over sales scam claim
Britain's newspaper auditor may investigate circulation figures for the European edition of Rupert Murdoch's 'Wall Street Journal' following claims that they were artificially inflated by the company effectively buying up its own papers.
The 'Wall Street Journal Europe's publisher, Andrew Langhoff, has already resigned over its links to a Dutch consultancy which allegedly received payments and favourable press coverage in return for bulk-buying copies of the paper each day at reduced prices and giving them to students.
The WSJ's parent company, Dow Jones, pointed out that its deal with Executive Learning Partnerships (ELP) had been approved by the Audit Bureau of Circulations UK. But the auditor said yesterday there may now be "grounds for further investigation".
It followed reports that Gert Van Mol, the man at the heart of the bulk-buying scheme, had bragged that he was responsible for a large part of the paper's sales. A source close to Dow Jones, which was bought by Mr Murdoch's News Corporation for $5bn in 2007, said Mr Van Mol had no concerns about the ELP deal. "He used to boast that he was responsible for 40 per cent of the paper's circulation," the source said.
Mr Van Mol worked in the WSJE's international distribution operations before moving to its circulation marketing department. There he set up the WSJE Future Leadership Institute, which he claimed was "responsible for up to 43pc of total 'Wall Street Journal' newspaper sales in Europe.
The WSJE wrote favourable articles about ELP in return for its partner buying 12,000 copies a day at low prices.
Jerry Wright, of the ABC UK, said yesterday that it had deemed the WSJE deal to be compliant with the rules on sales of international publications. The results of any inquiry will be published only if a complaint is upheld, the ABC added.