London, Jul 22 - Under pressure to restructure his global holdings, media baron Rupert Murdoch has resigned from a string of directorships controlling his News Corporation's UK titles and those in India, US and Australia, fuelling speculation that he may be preparing to sell his newspaper group here.
In June, 81-year-old Murdoch had announced the separation of newspapers from the lucrative film and television divisions of parent company News Corp.
His latest move has fuelled speculation that his UK titles may be sold off to prevent the phone-hacking row from affecting lucrative divisions of his empire.
In an email sent yesterday, staff at The Times, The Sunday Times and The Sun were told that Murdoch remained "fully committed" as Chairman despite relinquishing positions on a number of UK boards, including the News International Group.
A News International spokesman said: "Last week, Mr Murdoch stepped down from a number of boards, many of them small subsidiary boards, both in the UK and US. This is nothing more than a corporate house-cleaning exercise prior to the company split."
Murdoch, Chief Executive of News Corp, resigned from roles in News Corp Investments, News International Group Limited and Times Newspaper Holdings in the UK last week.
He has also stepped down from boards in the US, Australia and India.
The company said the move was part of plans to split News Corp into separate newspaper and entertainment operations, which will see News Corp's film and television divisions -- including 20th Century Fox and the Fox broadcasting network -- grouped in one company.
The other company would hold all News Corp's publishing interests, such as The Wall Street Journal, The Times, The Sun, The Australian, The New York Post and publisher HarperCollins.
According to the email sent to staff, the decision to resign as director of UK-based newspapers "is part of the preparation of the business for the upcoming restructure into two companies".
It adds: "(Murdoch) remains fully committed to our business as Chairman of what will become the largest newspaper and digital group in the world and we look forward to seeing him in London over the Olympic Games."
Several inquiries are currently in various stages of progress into issues related to the phone-hacking controversy at the now defunct News of the World.
The adverse impact of the row was seen to affect the parent News Corp. PTI