Murdoch aide Rebekah Brooks quits

Rebekah Brooks resigned as chief executive of News Corp's British newspaper unit on Friday, yielding to...

Copies of Britain's News of the World newspaper are pictured in London on July 7, 2011. Picture: AFP

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

(7 billion pound) bid to buy the shares he does not own in 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.

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. On Thursday, 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.

DEFIANT TONE

Murdoch

struck a defiant tone on Friday, saying his media empire would recover

from a scandal over alleged phone hacking crimes at the News of the

World and an FBI inquiry into similar allegations in the United States.

Murdoch

has denied that News Corp was drawing up plans to separate its

newspaper holdings, which are at the heart of the controversy, from the

rest of the media company.

It

includes the Fox broadcast network in the U.S., the 20th Century Fox

movie studio and newspapers around the world, including The Wall Street

Journal, the New York Post and The Times and the Sun tabloid.

Murdoch

said News Corp had handled the crisis "extremely well in every way

possible" making just "minor mistakes" and called reports he would split

off his newspaper assets "pure rubbish."

Speaking

to the Wall Street Journal, Murdoch said his son James had acted "as

fast as he could, the moment he could" to deal with the scandal.

Murdoch, who is in London managing the crisis, said damage to the company was "nothing that will not be recovered."

"We have a reputation of great good works in this country," he added.

However, rival publishers are seeking to capitalise on the company's weakness.

The

Daily Mail & General Trust is planning a new mass-market Sunday

tabloid to fill the gap left by the News of the World, which had a

weekly sale of around 2.7 million.

A source told Reuters the newspaper could be published as early as next weekend if a dummy this weekend went well.

"END OF A DICTATORSHIP"

The Murdochs' hold over British politics appears to have been broken by the scandal.

They

were forced to agree to appear before parliament after Prime Minister

Cameron said they should attend and as politicians across the political

spectrum united in denouncing the hacking that initially had seemed to

focus on celebrities and politicians but has become seen as far more

widespread.

Murdoch said lies had

been told about his company in the British parliament and that he wanted

to put the record straight: "We think it's important to absolutely

establish our integrity in the eyes of the public," he told the Journal.

Business

Secretary Vince Cable, on BBC radio, said of the swift volte-face by

politicians queuing up to condemn the Murdochs: "It is a little bit like

the end of a dictatorship when everybody suddenly discovers they were

against the dictator."

Cable lost responsibility for media policy last December after he was taped saying he had "declared war on Murdoch."