Les Hinton, chief executive officer of News Corp. (NWSA)’s Dow Jones & Co. unit, said he is resigning, the media company’s second executive to step down today amid accusations of phone hacking by its journalists.
Hinton, 67, was chairman of News International for 12 years until 2007, giving him a leading role at the U.K. newspaper unit during the time when the alleged hacking took place. News Corp., controlled by Chairman Rupert Murdoch, announced Hinton’s resignation in a statement today.
“That I was ignorant of what apparently happened is irrelevant and in the circumstances I feel it is proper for me to resign from News Corp. and apologize to those hurt by the actions of the News of the World,” Hinton said in the statement.
News International’s News of the World tabloid is accused of hacking hundreds of voice mails, including those of murder and terrorism victims, and bribing police for confidential information. News International CEO Rebekah Brooks, former editor of News of the World, resigned earlier today.
The scandal has also led New York-based News Corp. to close the 168-year-old tabloid and drop its 7.8 billion-pound ($12.6 billion) proposed bid for full control of British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc. (BSY)
Hinton started at News Corp. 52 years ago, at the age of 15, fetching sandwiches for Murdoch. His resignation, Hinton said, marks a “deeply, deeply sad day for me.”
’Heaviest of Hearts’
Murdoch echoed the sentiment in his statement, saying he had accepted Hinton’s resignation “with the heaviest of hearts.”
Hinton may have decided to resign to help the company overcome the political fallout caused by the hacking incident, according to John Morton, a Silver Spring, Maryland-based newspaper industry consultant and analyst. “Questions have been raised about how much responsibility Hinton had in this,” Morton said in an interview. “This may be a way of deflecting that stuff, or maybe he is sacrificing himself for Murdoch.”
Murdoch, who for the past 10 days has been managing through the phone hacking turmoil, said that the global company he has spent his life building is much larger than himself.
“News Corporation is not Rupert Murdoch,” he said in his statement. “It is the collective creativity and effort of many thousands of people around the world.”
Murdoch, 80, and his son James, News Corp.’s deputy chief operating officer, are scheduled to testify before the U.K. Parliament on July 19. Brooks will also give evidence at the parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is examining whether News Corp. employees also tried to access the phones of Sept. 11 victims.
News Corp. rose 21 cents to $15.64 at 4 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The shares have dropped 13 percent since the first reports on July 4 that News of the World in 2002 hacked the voice-mail messages of a missing teen who was later found murdered.
Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, competes with News Corp. units in providing financial news and information.
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