The hacking scandal that has been engulfing News Corp.’s UK newspaper publisher News International — and is increasingly threatening to spread to the wider company — has claimed its latest scalp: Rebekah Brooks has resigned as the CEO of News International.
Brooks had been working for News International for 22 years. Among her past roles at the company, she had once been the editor of the now-defunct News of the World, at a time when the paper was alleged to have committed some of its illegal practices to obtain news stories.
But rather than cooling down the situation, this move could end up fanning the flames even more. In a memo to employees this morning, Brooks did not admit to any wrongdoing. Rather, she said she was leaving because her presence was “detracting attention” from News Corp.’s attempts to “fix the problems of the past.” Brooks also reveals that she had had discussions with the Murdochs over resigning before. “This time, my resignation has been accepted.”
She noted that by leaving it would mean she herself could have “the freedom and the time to give my full cooperation to all the current and future inquiries, the police investigations and the CMS appearance.” By leaving the organization, it makes Brooks an independent, which could potentially mean a more open account of what happened. Or perhaps not: “RB will be surrounded by a ring of steel,” was one person’s take on how Brooks will sally forth into what lies ahead.
One of the big questions now is whether this latest cull will slow down, or help reverse, some of the public outrage that has hit the company since the revelations about phone hacking first started. So far, News Corp.’s attempts to amputate toxic issues (closing down News of the World, for example), has not done much.
Right now the company is in damage-control mode. James Murdoch, in a letter to staff after Brooks’ resignation, noted to staff that News International is preparing to issue an apology in the form of a full-page advertisement that will run in several national newspapers over the weekend — not just those it owns.
Update: A copy of that ad is now circulating online and it is here (via Sky News producer Tim Gatt).
Succession at News International. News Corp was quick to replace Brooks, hastily issuing a press release to say that Tom Mockridge has been appointed as the new CEO of the publishing division. He starts immediately, leaving behind his previous role as CEO of Sky Italia, News Corp.’s pay-TV arm in Italy.
By picking someone from in a different country, and in broadcast rather than newspapers, it is a sign that News Corp wants to put as much distance between the scandals facing the company now, and what comes next. Still, he is a News Corp veteran, all the same, with a track record that includes executive roles in New Zealand and Asia Pacific.
Yesterday, a key shareholder in News Corp. (NSDQ: NWS) Prince Al-Waleed of Saudi Arabia, spoke to the news program Newsnight about resignations. His bottom line was about ethics and who violated them. When asked flat-out whether Brooks should resign, his response was clear:
“If she was involved in this, of course she has to go,” he said.
One side-note. This will be strong vindication for at least one of the anonymous people who claim to be ex-employees and have taken to Twitter to spread their knowledge of the situation. One of them, “exNOTWJourno2″, correctly predicted that Brooks would be out as CEO this week.
But she also claimed that she will be “redeployed” to the U.S., so perhaps she is not always right: a News Corp spokesperson confirmed to paidContent that her resignation as CEO also means that she has completely left the company.
In any case, those anonymous tipsters might be gaining a new degree of credibility out of all of this from those who doubted them before.