Media titan Rupert Murdoch, struggling to contain the growing outrage over the hacking scandal that shut down his News of the World tabloid in the U.K., has published a personal apology.
With his bid for lucrative British TV broadcaster BSkyB potentially scuttled and the stock value of his News Corp. business plummeting, the embattled CEO posted a public act of contrition Saturday.
A letter of apology signed by Murdoch was published in seven British national newspapers under the headline "We are sorry," acknowledging "the serious wrongdoing that occurred."
"We are deeply sorry for the hurt suffered by the individuals affected. We regret not acting faster to sort things out," it said.
Letter of apology
The News of the World was in the business of holding others to account. It failed when it came to itself.
We are sorry for the serious wrongdoing that occurred. We are deeply sorry for the hurt suffered by the individuals affected.
We regret not acting faster to sort things out. I realize that simply apologizing is not enough.
Our business was founded on the idea that a free and open press should be a positive force in society. We need to live up to this.
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.
Sincerely, Rupert Murdoch
The company plans to take out more ads in the coming days outlining its next steps — part of a new strategy by the mogul. A front-page headline Saturday in the Murdoch-owned London Times read: "Day of atonement."
Murdoch on Friday met with the family of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, whose phone was hacked by the News of the World in 2002. The revelation that journalists had accessed her phone in search of scoops while police were looking for the missing 13-year-old fueled an explosion of interest in the long-simmering scandal about illegal eavesdropping.
The 80-year-old Australian-born mogul said "as founder of the company I was appalled to find out what had happened and I apologized."
The phones of celebrities, royal aides, politicians and top athletes are also alleged to have been hacked, and police are investigating whether the scandal also reached to the victims of London's 2005 terrorist bombings and the families of dead British soldiers.
Top execs resign
On Friday the scandal that has rocked his British holdings claimed a senior Murdoch executive in the U.S. when Wall Street Journal publisher Les Hinton — a staunch ally who has worked for Murdoch for more than half a century — announced he was stepping down immediately as publisher of the Wall Street Journal and chief executive of Dow Jones & Co.
Hinton was chairman of Murdoch's British newspaper arm during some of the years its staffers are alleged to have hacked into cellphones. Still, he had testified to a parliamentary committee in 2007 and 2009 that he had seen no evidence that abuses had spread beyond a single jailed reporter, Clive Goodman.
"That I was ignorant of what apparently happened is irrelevant," he said.
Murdoch's British lieutenant, Rebekah Brooks, also stepped down Friday. Brooks said she was stepping aside because her status as "a focal point of the debate" was interfering with "our honest endeavours to fix the problems of the past."
Tom Mockridge, the head of Sky Italia, was installed to replace Brooks as CEO at News International, the British newspaper arm of Murdoch's global News Corp.
The loss of two top aides ended a rough week for Murdoch, who faces more pressure Tuesday when he, his son James and Brooks all face questioning by a British parliamentary committee investigating phone hacking and police bribery.
British Prime Minister David Cameron also has appointed a judge to conduct a sweeping inquiry into criminal activity at the News of the World and in the British media.
Murdoch is eager to stop the crisis from spreading to the United States, where the FBI has opened an inquiry into whether 9/11 victims or their families were targeted by News Corp. papers.
Murdoch's News Corp. empire includes Fox News, the 20th Century Fox movie studio, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and three British newspapers — the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times. He also has major holdings in Australia.