The U.K. phone-hacking episode has claimed its latest--and perhaps inevitable--casualty.
Rebekah Brooks, the besieged chief executive of News Corp.'s scandal-tainted British publishing operation, has resigned. Her exit comes just one week after the company announced it was shuttering the top-selling tabloid she once edited, News of the World, in a futile effort to contain the fast-spreading fallout over the paper's criminal information-gathering methods.
"As chief executive of the company, 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 in a letter to staff that was obtained by The Guardian and other news outlets Friday morning.
"I have believed that the right and responsible action has been to lead us through the heat of the crisis. However my desire to remain on the bridge has made me a focal point of the debate," she continued. "This is now detracting attention from all our honest endeavours to fix the problems of the past. Therefore I have given [News Corp. chairman] Rupert and [his son] James Murdoch my resignation. While it has been a subject of discussion, this time my resignation has been accepted."
The development is a significant blow to Murdoch, not only because Brooks, 43, was something of a daughter figure for the 80-year-old mogul, who defended her in the press upon arriving in London on Sunday. Murdoch's headaches have continued to mount since the saga began to snowball last week. British Parliament is now aggressively probing the growing allegations of illegal privacy invasions by News International journalists, and Rupert and James have been called to testify before the body next week.
News Corp. also withdrew its bid for control of British Sky Broadcasting, which would have marked the conglomerate's largest acquisition ever.
Brooks' resignation is the final chapter in a meteoric 22-year career at News International that started with a secretarial position. While she remained in favor with the Murdochs as the scandal grew, she became the target of outrage for the roughly 200 News of the World editorial staffers who lost their jobs as a result of the closure, even though she was said to have offered her resignation when the decision to shut down the paper was made. Brooks was editor of News of the World at the time some of the hacks occurred, including those involving a 13-year-old murder victim. She has maintained that she had no knowledge of the illegal activities at the time, a claim that's prompted a fair amount of incredulity.
"As chief executive of the company, 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," she wrote in her letter.
James Murdoch praised Brooks in a separate letter to staff.
"She has been one of the outstanding editors of her generation and she can be proud of many accomplishments as an executive," he wrote. "We support her as she takes this step to clear her name."
James also announced Brooks' successor: Tom Mockridge, who he described as "a highly respected and accomplished media executive who has served as CEO of Sky Italia since its launch in 2003."
UPDATE: Late Friday afternoon, Dow Jones CEO Les Hinton stepped down as the phone hacking scandal claimed its first stateside victim.
The Cutline's complete Hackgate coverage:
• Slideshow: The many smiles of Rupert Murdoch
• FBI launches News Corp. phone hacking investigation, AP source says
• What does the phone hacking scandal mean for News Corp. in U.S.?
• Murdochs agree to testify in phone hacking case
• Murdochs dodge British Parliament request to appear in phone hacking case
• Hackgate update: Parliament declares 'victory' but News Corp. stock rebounds
• Calls for U.S. to investigate, prosecute News Corp. grow louder
• Rupert, James Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks asked to appear before British lawmakers
• Phone-hack saga spiraling out of control: 9/11 dead, ex-British P.M. among latest alleged victims
• News glut for News of the World saga
• News Corp. to shutter News of the World in wake of phone hacking scandal
• Pressure mounts on Murdoch over phone hacking: Advertisers flee News of the World; government launches inquiry; more allegations surface
• Billy Bragg's anti-serenade to News Corp.