Tom Mockridge, the CEO of News International, the U.K. newspaper unit of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., has resigned, the company announced Sunday night.
His exit, effective at year's end, comes amid reports that Dow Jones editor in chief Robert Thomson will take over News Corp.'s publishing company when the media giant splits into two next year. Mockridge, a long-time Murdoch colleague who was born in New Zealand, had been seen as a favorite for the job.
"For nearly 22 years, it has been my pleasure to have Tom Mockridge as a colleague," News Corp. CEO and chairman Murdoch said in a statement. "Whether it was his early days with our newspaper group in Australia, his incredible work building SKY Italia, or his steadfast leadership of News International, Tom has always been a skilled executive and a trusted friend. His decision to step down is absolutely and entirely his own. I am sorry to see him leave us but I know he will be a great success wherever he goes."
Mockridge previously ran the Sky Italia pay TV business before replacing Rebekah Brooks as head of News International, in the wake of the U.K. phone hacking scandal.
News Corp. is planning to separate the publishing company from its entertainment assets, including its film studio, the Fox broadcast network and its cable networks. The company has always said that Murdoch would remain chairman and CEO of the entertainment company, as well as chairman of the publishing group.
In June, News Corp. announced it would split into two companies -- one for its publishing assets, including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and HarperCollins, the other for its film and television businesses, including 20th Century Fox studio and Fox News cable channel.
Also read: News Corp. Officially Announces Split Plans Thomson, 51, has been at the Journal since 2008. He has also served as editor of The Times of London, editor of the U.S. edition of the Financial Times and worked at newspapers in Australia, including the Melbourne Herald and the Sydney Morning Herald.
Significantly, Thomson was never caught up in the phone hacking scandal that engulfed News Corp.'s U.K. tabloids and led the shuttering of the News of the World. And while no one at the Wall Street Journal was accused of the phone hacking that took down the News of the World, Dow Jones' former CEO Les Hinton resigned from his position because he oversaw the tabloid while much of the hacking took place.
Other senior News Corp. publishing executives are facing charges in the United Kingdom over their alleged roles in the phone hacking. Naming Thomson would signal a clean break with the scandal in the new publishing division and a desire to emphasize editorial principles associated with the respected Wall Street Journal.
Last year Thomson sent a memo to his staff members saying that they must hold themselves to a "higher standards of probity than other news organizations."