Dow Jones CEO Les Hinton resigned today, making him the second high-ranking casualty in less than 24 hours in a journalistic scandal that has jeopardized Rupert Murdoch's multibillion-dollar empire.
Earlier today, Rebekah Brooks, one of Murdoch's closest confidants and chief executive of his British newspapers, resigned her post. She was editor of News of the World when the incidents of phone hacking and bribery allegedly occurred.
In Hinton's resignation letter, obtained by the website All Things D, Hinton maintained he was unaware of the inappropriate action that occurred when he was chairman of News International.
"I have watched with sorrow from New York as the News of the World story has unfolded," he wrote. "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," he added. "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."
In a statement of his own, Murdoch wrote, "That this passage has come to an unexpected end, professionally, not personally, is a matter of much sadness to me."
Hinton and Murdoch have worked together for more than 50 years.
Both Brooks and Hinton's resignations come on a day when Murdoch was in damage control mode, trying to gain the upper-hand on a scandal that has scarred his brand.
Today, he met with the family of Milly Dowler -- victims of his company's newsgathering transgressions -- and on Saturday Murdoch plans to run a personal apology in U.K. newspapers.
Dowler went missing in 2002 and an investigator from Murdoch's now-defunct Sunday tabloid, News of the World, reportedly hacked her cell phone for a juicy story while her parents and police desperately searched for her. The hacker, hoping to get a new lead on the story, apparently deleted messages when Dowler's voicemail was full, giving the Dowlers a false hope that their daughter could still be alive. Dowler's body was found months later.
Following the meeting, Murdoch said he apologized to the Dowlers. The family's lawyer, Mark Lewis, told the media that the apology was genuine and heartfelt.
"They can forgive, but they cannot forget," Lewis said. According to Lewis, there was absolutely no discussion of financial compensation.
The Dowlers first learned their daughter's phone was hacked last week when it was reported by the Guardian newspaper. The revelation enraged the U.K. and brought other alleged incidents of hacking and bribery to light.
This weekend, Murdoch plans to publish an apology that will be carried in all national U.K. newspapers under the headline, "We are sorry," News International announced.
"We are sorry for the serious wrongdoing that occurred. We are deeply sorry for the hurt suffered by the individuals affected," the text will read, according to News International. "The News of the World was in the business of holding others to account. It failed when it came to itself."
Originally Murdoch had defended Brooks publicly in the wake of the scandal and previously refused to accept her resignation. But as News Corp.'s bottom line suffered, Murdoch's position changed.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Murdoch's daughter, Elisabeth, harshly criticized Brooks' handling of the scandal. Elisabeth Murdoch told friends privately that Brooks had "f----- the company," the Telegraph reported.
Brooks said she resigned because her position as CEO of News International had become a distraction for the parent company, News Corp., and she said she would now focus on refuting the allegations.
"I have believed that the right and responsible action has been to lead us through the heat of the crisis. However my desire to remain on the bridge has made me a focal point of the debate," Brooks wrote in email to colleagues on Friday that was released by News International. "This is now detracting attention from all our honest endeavors to fix the problems of the past."
Brooks, who took control of News International's four British papers in 2007, on Thursday agreed to answer questions before a U.K. parliamentary committee next week.
Brooks was known as tough, smart, fiercely competitive and loyal to a fault. She wasn't just another executive in the Rupert Murdoch empire, she worked with him for more than two decades. He referred to her as his daughter, was said to buy her lavish gifts and preferred a country pub dinner with her to another high-powered meeting with business leaders and politicians.