Head of Murdoch’s British operations quits
Rebekah Brooks, the head of Rupert Murdoch’s British operations, resigned Friday after days of intensifying pressure on her because of the growing phone-hacking scandal.
One of the most influential women in Britain until the scandal broke wide open last week, Brooks said in a statement that she was stepping down as chief executive of News International because she had become a “focal point” in the scandal and therefore a distraction to efforts to repair the damage.
“I feel a deep sense of responsibility for the people we have hurt and I want to reiterate how sorry I am for what we now know to have taken place,” Brooks wrote to her colleagues at News International.
The company is the British subsidiary of Murdoch’s giant News Corp. and owns such storied titles as the Times of London and the Sun tabloid. Until this past Sunday, the weekly News of the World, Britain’s bestselling newspaper, was also one of the company’s holdings. But News International abruptly shut it down after 168 years of existence because of allegations that it ordered the hacking of cellphones belonging to a wide swath of British society, including celebrities, politicians and crime victims.
Political leaders and commentators have been calling for Brooks’ resignation for days, demanding that she take responsibility for the phone-hacking scandal, which has dominated headlines here for more than a week.
“At News International we pride ourselves on setting the news agenda for the right reasons. Today we are leading the news for the wrong ones,” Brooks wrote.
The most explosive phone-hacking accusation emerged last week: that a private investigator hired by the paper illegally accessed and deleted voicemail messages belonging to a kidnapped girl named Milly Dowler in 2002. The 13-year-old was later found slain, but the deleted messages had given her family false hope that she was still alive, because they thought she erased the messages herself.
Brooks was editor of the News of the World at the time of the incident.
James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s son and the chairman of News International, thanked Brooks for her 22 years of service and acknowledged the difficulties the company now faces.
“The company has made mistakes. It is not only receiving appropriate scrutiny, but is also responding to unfair attacks by setting the record straight,” the younger Murdoch wrote.
Both Murdochs and also Brooks are to appear before a parliamentary committee next Tuesday to answer questions about the scandal, which has triggered a wave of national outrage over journalistic tactics, political timidity toward the Murdoch media empire and police relationships with the media.
Although the calls for Brooks’ resignation have been almost universal in Britain -- even Prime Minister David Cameron, a friend of Brooks’, eventually said she ought to step down -- it was unclear whether Rupert Murdoch would allow it to happen.
Some commentators have said that Murdoch looks on Brooks as almost a daughter and has been one of her biggest boosters. She is also close to James Murdoch and his sister, Elisabeth.
James Murdoch said that Tom Mockridge, the chief executive officer of Sky Italia, would replace Brooks.