Murdoch aide Brooks quits as head of UK newspapers

LONDON,  (Reuters) – Rebekah Brooks resigned as chief  executive of News Corp’s British newspaper unit on Friday,  yielding to political and investor pressure over a phone hacking  scandal undermining Rupert Murdoch’s media empire on both sides  of the Atlantic.
The 43-year-old Brooks, a former editor of the scandal-hit  News of the World newspaper and of the flagship tabloid the Sun,  was a close confidante of Murdoch, who had signalled her  importance to him when he flew into London to manage the crisis  at the News International subsidiary.
The public disgust that erupted over reports that one of  News Corp’s newspapers had hacked into the voicemails  of murder victims has so far forced Murdoch to shut down the  News of the World and pull a $12-billion bid to buy the shares  he does not own in British satellite broadcaster BSkyB .
Murdoch, 80, long courted by Britain’s political elite,  faces a showdown with parliament on Tuesday when lawmakers on  the media committee grill him, his son James, 38, as well as  Brooks to find out more about the phone hacking practices.
Tom Mockridge, CEO of the company’s Italian pay TV arm Sky  Italia, will replace Brooks, who spent more than two decades at  the newspaper company. Analysts may welcome the New Zealander’s  background in television, an area in which News Corp is keen to  expand, as well as his lack of direct involvement in the  scandal-hit British newspaper business during the past decade.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, as well as his Labour  opponents, had said Brooks should have quit. Cameron said last  week that an initial offer by her to resign should have been  accepted. Yesterday, an influential Saudi investor in News  Corp said he agreed.
Brooks, whose youth, mane of red hair and sharp tongue have  helped give her a high public profile in Britain, said in a  message to staff: “My desire to remain on the bridge has made me  a focal point of the debate. This is now detracting attention  from all our honest endeavours to fix the problems of the past.
“Therefore I have given Rupert and James Murdoch my  resignation. While it has been a subject of discussion, this  time my resignation has been accepted.”
A week ago, she had told News of the World staff, who were  sacked with the paper’s closure, that she would remain —  causing anger among many of the 200 being laid off. Some accused  Murdoch of sacrificing their jobs to save hers.

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