Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Murdoch changes tune, apologizes

Media magnate laments actions

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LONDON -- Rupert Murdoch's scandal-rocked empire retreated from defiance to contrition Friday as the media magnate accepted the resignation of his protege Rebekah Brooks, publicly apologized for his company's sins and met the family of a murdered schoolgirl whose phone was hacked by the News of the World tabloid.

The shift in strategy was aimed at calming a storm that knocked nearly $7 billion off the value of Murdoch's News Corp., scuttled his ambitions to take control of lucrative British Sky Broadcasting, withered his political power in Britain -- and is threatening to destabilize his globe-spanning business.

Just a day after asserting that News Corp. had made only "minor mistakes," Murdoch issued an apology to run in Britain's national newspapers for "serious wrongdoing" by the News of the World, which he shut down last week amid allegations of large-scale illegal hacking by its staff.

"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," said the full-page ad, signed by Murdoch and due to run in Saturday's editions of all main national newspapers.

Murdoch promised "further concrete steps to resolve these issues and make amends for the damage they have caused."

Murdoch also met 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 inflamed the long-simmering scandal about illegal eavesdropping by the newspaper.

The 80-year-old mogul emerged from the meeting at a London hotel to catcalls of, "Shame on you!" from hecklers. He said, "As founder of the company I was appalled to find out what had happened, and I apologized."

Dowler family lawyer Mark Lewis said Murdoch appeared humbled and had offered "a heartfelt and what seemed to be a very sincere apology."

"I don't think somebody could have held their head in their hands so many times and said that they were sorry," Lewis said.

In a further development, Les Hinton, the chief executive of Dow Jones & Co., resigned, becoming the latest News Corp. executive casualty in the phone-hacking and bribery scandal.

Hinton served as executive chairman of the British unit that oversaw News Corp.'s U.K. tabloid newspapers at the heart of the scandal for 12 years. A member of the board of The Associated Press, Hinton became head of Dow Jones in December 2007.

Hinton said he was "ignorant of what apparently happened" but felt it was proper to resign. He apologized for the hurt caused by the actions of journalists who worked for the now-shuttered tabloid, News of the World.

Murdoch's tone Friday was dramatically different from an interview published Thursday in the Wall Street Journal -- which is owned by News Corp. -- in which he said the company had handled the crisis "extremely well in every way possible" and complained he was "getting annoyed" at all the negative headlines.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 16, 2011 A25

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