Dow Jones CEO and Wall Street Journal publisher Les Hinton abruptly stepped down from his post on Friday, becoming the second trusted lieutenant to Rupert Murdoch to leave News Corp. over its burgeoning phone hacking scandal in one day.
"It is a deeply, deeply sad day for me," Mr. Hinton, who worked for Mr. Murdoch for more than 50 years, said in an email to staff.
Mr. Hinton was CEO of News International, News Corp.'s British newspapers division, while its News of the World tabloid was hacking the voicemails of royals, celebrities and citizens including Milly Dowler, a missing teenager who was later found dead. He told Parliament in 2006 that the hacking was the work of just one reporter, a statement that now appears to have been inaccurate.
"The pain caused to innocent people is unimaginable," Mr. Hinton wrote in a resignation letter addressed "Dear Rupert."
"That I was ignorant of what apparently happened is irrelevant and in the circumstances I feel it is proper for me to resign from News Corp., and apologize to those hurt by the actions of the News of the World," he wrote.
Mr. Hinton began working for Mr. Murdoch as a 15-year-old in 1959, when he walked into a small afternoon paper in Adelaide, Australia, and asked for office work. His duties included fetching sandwiches for Mr. Murdoch's lunch.
Mr. Hinton worked for Mr. Murdoch in different capacities ever since, with the exception of a couple of years in England working for United Press International and then for a paper again. "Rupert bought the newspaper," Mr. Hinton told Ad Age in 2008. "At that point I stopped running."
After Mr. Murdoch bought Dow Jones for $5.6 billion in 2007, he named Mr. Hinton CEO of the company.
Robert Thomson, editor in chief at Dow Jones and managing editor at The Journal, told staff in a note Friday that Mr. Hinton had "fought for the cause of great journalism at the Journal and Newswires and beyond."
"Before Les transformed the company, there were plans afoot for hundreds of editorial layoffs and Dow Jones was at the mercy of management consultants," Mr. Thomson said. "In the most turbulent of times for 'old' media, Les steered us back into profitability and made us a digital force around the world. There will be a certain amount of uncertainty in the coming days, but we should all be clear that , as Dow Jones journalists, we owe Les an enormous and irredeemable debt."
Dow Jones President Todd Larsen will now report directly to News Corp.'s deputy chairman, president and chief operating officer, Chase Carey, the company said.
Earlier on Friday Rebekah Brooks, editor at News of the World during much of the hacking, resigned her post as the current CEO of News International.
Below, the full text of Mr. Hinton's email to staff and resignation letter to Mr. Murdoch:
Sent: Friday, July 15, 2011 04:10 PM
Subject: farewell and thanks
Many of you will be aware by now that I resigned today from Dow Jones and News Corp. I attach below my resignation letter to Rupert Murdoch.
It is a deeply, deeply sad day for me.
I want you all to know the pride and pleasure I have taken working at Dow Jones for the past three-and-a-half years. I have never been with better, more dedicated people, or had more fun in a job.
News Corp under Rupert's brilliant leadership has proved a fitting parent of Dow Jones, allowing us to invest and expand as other media companies slashed costs. This support enabled us together to strengthen the company during a brutal economic downturn, developing fine new products -- not to mention one of the world's great newspapers led by one of the world's great editors, my dear friend and colleague Robert Thomson.
However difficult this moment is for me, I depart with the certain knowledge that we have built the momentum to take Dow Jones on to ever greater things.
Good luck to you all and thank you.
I have watched with sorrow from New York as the News of the World story has unfolded. I have seen hundreds of news reports of both actual and alleged misconduct during the time I was executive chairman of News International and responsible for the company. The pain caused to innocent people is unimaginable. That I was ignorant of what apparently happened is irrelevant and in the circumstances I feel it is proper for me to resign from News Corp, and apologize to those hurt by the actions of the News of the World.
When I left News International in December 2007, I believed that the rotten element at the News of the World had been eliminated; that important lessons had been learned; and that journalistic integrity was restored.
My testimonies before the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee were given honestly. When I appeared before the Committee in March 2007, I expressed the belief that Clive Goodman had acted alone, but made clear our investigation was continuing.
In September 2009, I told the Committee there had never been any evidence delivered to me that suggested the conduct had spread beyond one journalist. If others had evidence that wrongdoing went further, I was not told about it.
Finally, I want to express my gratitude to you for a wonderful working life. My admiration and respect for you are unbounded. You have built a magnificent business since I first joined 52 years ago and it has been an honor making my contribution.
With my warmest best wishes,