Les Hinton, the CEO of Dow Jones and publisher of the Wall Street Journal, announced Friday that he is stepping down from his position, amid questions about his role in the News Of The World phone hacking scandal during his tenure as chief executive of News International.
Hinton ran News International, which publishes News Corp’s U.K. newspapers, from 1995-2007, during which time reporters for News Of The World allegedly hacked into the phone records of murder victims, terrorism victims, and public officials.
In his resignation letter to Rupert Murdoch, Hinton denied any knowledge of the phone hacking during his tenure. “That I was ignorant of what apparently happened is irrelevant,” Hinton wrote, “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 2007 and 2009, when revelations about News Of The World’s tactics first came to light, Hinton told Parliament that an internal investigation found that only one reporter was culpable in the offenses. In his resignation letter to Murdoch he maintained this defense:
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.
In a memo to his staff, Hinton called it “a deeply, deeply sad day for me.” Murdoch said in a statement that “on this difficult day we should appreciate that his extraordinary work has provided a platform for the future success of Dow Jones. And his great contribution to News Corporation over more than five decades has enhanced innumerable lives, whether those of employees hired by him or of readers better informed because of him.”
Hinton also hired Neil Wallis — who on Thursday was the ninth person arrested in connection with the scandal — during his time as chief of News International.
Earlier Friday, Rebekah Brooks, Hinton’s successor at News International, also resigned from her post, saying that “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 endeavors to fix the problems of the past.”
Brooks, and Rupert and James Murdoch are set to appear before a Parliamentary committee next Tuesday.