Rupert Murdoch 311 R.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
NEW YORK/LONDON - Rupert Murdoch apologized to victims of criminal phone hacking by one of his tabloids and accepted the resignations of News Corp's top two newspaper executives, Rebekah Brooks and Les Hinton.
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Moving to gain control of a scandal washing over his global business, the US-based magnate made a personal apology to the parents of a murdered schoolgirl in what appeared to be an admission that the News of the World, then edited by Brooks and overseen by Hinton, had in 2002 hacked into the voicemails of their missing daughter.
It was this damning allegation, in a rival newspaper 10 days ago, which reignited a 5-year-old scandal that has forced Murdoch to close the News of the World, Britain's best-selling Sunday paper, and drop a $12 billion plan to buy full control of highly profitable pay-TV operator BSkyB .
The crisis has broken the grip that Murdoch, 80, had over British politics for three decades as leaders from Margaret Thatcher, through Labour's Tony Blair to current Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron sought his support.
The scandal has shaken Cameron, who is under
fire for his personal relationship with Brooks and for hiring another
ex-editor of the News of the World as his spokesman.
Known for his loyalty to those close to him, Murdoch backed down on Friday and accepted the resignations of confidants Brooks and Hinton, a 52-year veteran of the company and the top executive of Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal.
The resignation of Hinton, 67, was greeted by gasps and a stunned silence at the Wall Street Journal, where he served as publisher, despite mounting speculation that Hinton could be toppled by transgressions that occurred when he ran News International prior to Brooks.
Brooks had resisted pressure to quit, but finally resigned as chief
executive of News International after a top News Corp shareholder,
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, said she had to go.
The former editor of the News of the World and of flagship daily tabloid
The Sun, was a favorite of Rupert Murdoch, who described her as his
first priority just days ago.
In her place, he named News Corp veteran Tom Mockridge, who has spent the past eight years running Sky Italia.
With these departures, attention will now turn to Murdoch's son and
presumed successor, James, who took over the European operations of News
Corp just as the crisis was beginning. He has admitted to approving the
payment of out-of-court settlements when he did not have a complete
picture of what had happened.