Grasping the last edition of Britain's News of the World in hand, Rupert Murdoch swooped down in London, first visiting the offices of his U.K. newspaper division Sunday and then meeting with the embattled head of the division in the wake of a growing phone-hacking scandal that prompted the tabloid's closure.

TV footage showed the News Corp. CEO being driven into the east London offices of News International seated in the front and reading a copy of the last issue of the once-best-selling Sunday tabloid.

The 80-year-old media mogul left after about an hour and a half and returned to his London apartment, where he met with Rebekah Brooks, who is head of News Corp.'s U.K. newspaper operations.

They left Murdoch's residence about two hours later, smiling for the media pack outside.

Murdoch had his hand on Brook's back, in another apparent show of support for his executive, who has faced calls to resign given that she was editor of News of the World when some of the hacking allegedly occured. When asked what his first priority was, he gestured at Brooks and said: "This one." 

Britons, meanwhile, were snapping up the last edition of the 168-year-old muckraking paper.


News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch with Rebekah Brooks, Chief Executive of News International, in London. Murdoch says Brooks is his number one priority. ((Olivia Harris/Reuters))

The 8,674th edition apologizes for letting the paper's readers down, but stops short of acknowledging recent allegations that its journalists paid police for information. 

"We praised high standards, we demanded high standards but, as we are now only too painfully aware, for a period of a few years up to 2006 some who worked for us, or in our name, fell shamefully short of those standards," read a full-page editorial in the paper.

"Quite simply, we lost our way. Phones were hacked, and for that this newspaper is truly sorry."

Britain's media industry under fire

Allegations the paper's journalists paid police for information and hacked into the voicemails of young murder victims and the grieving families of dead soldiers prompted Murdoch's News International to shut down the tabloid.

The developments have turned up the heat on Britain's media industry amid concerns a police investigation won't stop with the News of the World, and cast new scrutiny on the cozy relationship between British politicians and the tabloid press.

Murdoch, who has long been considered a kingmaker in the British media establishment, is facing a maelstrom of criticism and outrage not just over the new allegations of impropriety at his tabloid, but also the decision to shut the paper and put 200 journalists out of work.

Closing down the News of the World, which was launched Oct. 1,1843, was seen by some as a desperate attempt by the media conglomerate to stem negative fallout and thus save its $18.5-billion deal to take over satellite broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting.

Opposition pushes for delay in BSkyB takeover

The British government has signaled that deal will be delayed because of the crisis, and the scandal has continued to unfold at breakneck pace in the media, prompting broader questions about corruption at the newspaper and media regulation in the U.K.

On Sunday, opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband warned that a Murdoch takeover of BSkyB should not be allowed while the phone-hacking investigation is continuing.

"When the public have seen the disgusting revelations that we have seen this week, the idea that this organization, which engaged in these terrible practices, should be allowed to take over BSkyB, to get that 100 per cent stake, without the criminal investigation having been completed…frankly that just won't wash with the public," he told the BBC.

Soul-searching has extended to the highest levels of government, with Prime Minister David Cameron conceding politicians developed too cozy a relationship with the tabloid press.

Cameron's former communications chief, Andy Coulson, is an ex-editor of the News of the World and was one of three men arrested this week as part of a police investigation into the phone-hacking and corruption allegations.

Cameron has called for a new media regulation system and pledged a public inquiry into what went wrong; the head of Murdoch's U.K. newspaper operations has alluded that more revelations are yet to come.