He did battle with the powerful New York City teachers union. He stood down placard-wielding protestors at meetings of the Panel for Educational Policy. For more than eight years, he closed schools, opened schools and otherwise tried to transform the nation’s largest school system.
Now Joel I. Klein, who left his post as the city’s schools chancellor in December, has been given a task by one of the world’s most powerful media moguls: helping to oversee one of the seamier media scandals in recent memory.
After stepping down from the chancellorship, Mr. Klein, 64, took a job with the News Corporation, one of the world’s largest media conglomerates, as chief executive of the education division and as executive vice president in the office of the company’s chairman, Rupert Murdoch.
Now, amid allegations that a British tabloid owned by the News Corporation, News of the World, hacked the cellphone of a murdered 13-year-old girl nine years ago, Mr. Murdoch has announced the appointment of Mr. Klein to “provide important oversight and guidance” in investigating the matter. Mr. Klein is also to be partially responsible for “keeping News Corporation’s board fully advised,” Mr. Murdoch said in a prepared statement.
“We are committed to addressing these issues fully and have taken a number of important steps to prevent them from happening again,” Mr. Murdoch’s statement read.
In a brief telephone interview on Wednesday, Mr. Klein said he was “not in charge” of handling the investigation, but he declined to elaborate on the specifics of his role. “It’s just what it said in our release today: I’m providing counsel and advice to the company,” he said.
Asked whether his experience running New York City schools would inform his efforts in this particular challenge, he said, “I think my whole life’s experience will bear on this.”
Before Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg named him schools chancellor, Mr. Klein was known as one of the brightest legal minds in the country; he worked as a lawyer in Washington for nearly three decades. At the Justice Department, he served as the assistant attorney general in charge of antitrust enforcement, leading the prosecution of Microsoft. He also spent two years as deputy White House counsel during the Clinton administration and was the chairman and chief executive of Bertelsmann, a multinational media corporation.
Mr. Klein was a “very wise choice” for the role, said Chris Cerf, who has known Mr. Klein since 1986 and served under him as a deputy schools chancellor.
“He’s been in the cauldron for a good stretch of his career, so it’s more than an abstract issue for him,” said Mr. Cerf, who is now acting commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education. “It’s something he knows a great deal about in a personal way.”
Kathryn S. Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, a business group, said she had often had dealings with Mr. Klein and that his experience at the Education Department “established his ability to take on a difficult challenge in a straightforward, honest way, and enhanced the credibility that he established during his years in Washington as a defender of the public interest.
“He’s a smart guy, he’s a sharp lawyer, he’s got credentials from years in public service, and it makes him an appropriate person” to help make the News Corporation’s case, she said.
Dennis M. Walcott, New York City’s current schools chancellor, noted that Mr. Klein had “navigated very difficult issues” throughout his career.
“Joel,” he said, “can handle anything.”