Hinton, who had been in Murdoch’s employ for more than 50 years, and Brooks are key figures in the still-unfolding scandal. Hinton oversaw News Corp.’s British newspapers when one of its papers, the News of the World, began to pry into the phone accounts of hundreds of British celebrities, politicians and ordinary citizens. Brooks was editor of the News of the World at the time and succeeded Hinton as chief of the British unit, News International.
Murdoch had stood by both executives as details of the hacking began to emerge, first in 2005 and particularly in the past 10 days, with revelations that the hacking was far more widespread than anyone at News Corp. had admitted. The furor in Britain over it led News Corp. to shutter News of the World last week and scuttled its $12 billion bid to take over a satellite TV company, British Sky Broadcasting.
Murdoch has described Brooks, 43, as like a daughter to him and had refused to accept her resignation several times. On Friday, however, she resigned, saying she had become a focal point of the scandal in a way that was jeopardizing the company.
Hinton, 67, is the first U.S. executive to lose his job as a direct result of the crisis. A onetime newspaper copy boy whose duties included fetching young Rupert Murdoch’s lunch, he said in a statement Friday that he was “ignorant of what apparently happened.” He apologized for the hurt caused by News of the World and called it “a deeply, deeply sad day for me.”
Hinton testified twice before parliamentary committees looking into the affair, in 2007 and 2009. He assured lawmakers on both occasions that the hacking was limited to one rogue reporter and a private investigator hired by the paper.
Brooks has admitted that News of the World journalists paid bribes to police to obtain information. But she, like Hinton, had said she was unaware of the extent of the hacking when she was running the paper and editing the scoops the illegal prying produced.
The dual resignations appeared to be part of News Corp.’s strategy to contain the most serious crisis in Murdoch’s nearly six decades as a dealmaker and global media baron. The pressure on Murdoch is likely to peak on Tuesday, when he and his son James, and perhaps Brooks, are scheduled to testify before Parliament about what they knew and what they did about it. James Murdoch is the chairman of News International and is widely considered the heir apparent to run News Corp., the world’s second-largest media-entertainment conglomerate after the Walt Disney Co.