Les Hinton, the CEO of Dow Jones and the man who oversaw operations at the Wall Street Journal, has resigned in what is the first U.S. casualty of the phone-hacking scandal in Britain.
Hinton, who has been at the helm of Dow Jones since 2007, was executive chairman of News International, the unit of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation that included the News of the World, the now-closed newspaper accused of hacking into thousands of people's private voice mail messages.
Over the last few days, a source familiar with Hinton's thinking said Hinton determined that he needed to take full responsibility for his role in the initial News of the World investigation into the hacking incidents when he was executive chairman of News International.
In a letter to News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch, Hinton explained his decision:
"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. "
In an e-mail to Dow Jones employees, he said Friday was a "deeply, deeply sad day for me."
Hinton worked for Murdoch for 52 years and is considered one of his closest friends. In a letter to employees, Murdoch said he accepted Hinton's resignation "with the heaviest of hearts":
"I vividly recall an enthusiastic young man in the offices of my first newspaper in Adelaide, where Les joined the company as a 15-year-old and had the rather unenviable task of buying me sandwiches for lunch.
It was clear then that Les was a remarkable talent, and that he had the ability and the energy to carry him far. Little did we both realize that we would be travel companions on a journey through the world of magazines, Hollywood, television studios, coupons and the greatest newspapers on the globe. Little did we realize that our corporate relationship would end in these circumstances."
Hinton's decision to leave News Corp. came the same day another close Murdoch ally, Rebekah Brooks, resigned. Brooks was News International's chief executive at the time reporters and detectives for News of the World illegally tapped into voice mail messages.
With reporting from Charlie Herman, WNYC Business Editor.