August 7, 2022

Brooks Quits and Murdoch Apologizes to Slain Girl’s Kin

Her departure began a day of stepped-up damage control by Mr. Murdoch, the chairman of News Corporation, who on Friday released a copy of an apologetic note to be published in all British newspapers over the weekend. He also visited the family of a murdered 13-year-old girl, Milly Dowler, whose voice mail was hacked by reporters at The News of the World while she was still listed as missing.

According to the Dowler family’s lawyer, Mark Lewis, Mr. Murdoch offered a sincere apology for the actions of his employees, who deleted phone messages after the girl’s mailbox had been filled, so they could collect more messages from concerned family members.

Mr. Lewis said that Mr. Murdoch apologized “many times,” The Associated Press reported, and that he was “very humbled, he was very shaken and he was very sincere.”

The Dowler episode shocked many Britons and set off other disclosures of hacking into the phones of terrorism victims. Ms. Brooks was editor of The News of the World at the time.

The public apologies seemed to follow News Corporation’s acknowledgment that it had hired the public relations firm Edelman to handle the crisis. It appeared to reflect a strategy to tamp down a scandal that has already forced the closing of The News of the World, a tabloid, and the collapse of a $12 billion bid to assume full control of Britain’s biggest satellite broadcaster.

The head of crisis management at the firm, Mike Seymour, declined to comment on any work for Mr. Murdoch’s company, saying “I’m sure you understand.”

In the advertisement, Mr. Murdoch apologizes for “the serious wrongdoing that occurred” at News International, the British subsidiary of News Corporattion, and “the hurt suffered by the individuals affected.” British news media on Friday published the text and images of the ad, which is signed by Rupert Murdoch alone and begins in large type: “We are sorry.”

“We regret not acting faster to sort things out,” the ad reads in part. “I realize that simply apologizing is not enough. In the coming days, as we take further concrete steps to resolve these issues and make amends for the damage they have caused, you will hear more from us.”

Rupert and James Murdoch said on Thursday that they would testify next week before a parliamentary panel investigating the scandal, abandoning earlier efforts to avoid or put off appearing before the panel. Ms. Brooks said on Friday that she still intended to attend the hearing despite her stepping down from her post as chief executive of News International.

Ms. Brooks’s resignation came less than 12 hours after the broadcast of a BBC interview with News Corporation’s second-largest investor, a billionaire Saudi prince, who said that if Ms. Brooks had known of the misconduct at The News of the World, then “you bet she has to go.”

“Ethics to me are very important,” said the prince, Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al-Saud. “I will not deal with a lady or a man that has any sliver of doubt on her or his integrity.”

Until the scandal erupted, Ms. Brooks, 43, had been a star within News International, editing two influential tabloids and rising rapidly to head the division. British analysts described her as enjoying the status of a favored daughter, with close ties not only to the Murdoch family but also to leading politicians.

But her resignation had seemed ever more likely as the police arrested some of her former colleagues, leading politicians demanded her resignation, News Corporation’s stock took a pounding and major investors, like the Saudi prince, voiced concern.

Ms. Brooks, who has denied that she knew of the phone hacking while she was editor of The News of the World, said in an e-mail to her staff: “My desire to remain on the bridge has made me a focal point of the debate. This is now detracting attention from all our honest endeavors to fix the problems of the past. Therefore I have given Rupert and James Murdoch my resignation. While it has been a subject of discussion, this time my resignation has been accepted.”

She was replaced by Tom Mockridge, the head of Sky Italia, News Corporation’s Italian satellite broadcaster.

John F. Burns reported from London, and Alan Cowell from Paris. Ravi Somaiya contributed reporting from London.

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