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Saturday, July 16, 2011

'I've let my father down': Murdoch says sorry in person to the Dowlers and puts a full-page apology in every newspaper

-Dowler's lawyer say tycoon appeared 'humbled, shaken and sincere'
-Company releases full page adverts in newspapers to say sorry
-James Murdoch under pressure over 'hush money' payments to victims
-Former NI CEO Les Hinton quits as head of News Corp-owned Dow Jones
-Emerges Andy Coulson stayed at Chequers after he resigned
-Rebekah Brooks twice visited David Cameron at Chequers last year
-Murdoch could lose control of Fox TV over breach of U.S. bribery laws

By James Chapman

Apology: Rupert Murdoch leaves the hotel after meeting with the family of Milly Dowler. Their lawyer later revealed he had apologised for the conduct of reporters

A humbled Rupert Murdoch said he had let his late father down last night as he issued a face-to-face apology to the family of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler over the phone hacking scandal.

He said he was ‘appalled’ to learn that his media empire had apparently tapped into Milly’s voicemails, suggesting it had failed to live up to the standards set by legendary war reporter and newspaper proprietor Sir Keith Murdoch.

The Dowlers’ lawyer Mark Lewis said 80-year-old Mr Murdoch had appeared ‘humbled, shaken and sincere’.

‘This was something that had hit him on a personal level. He apologised many times and held his head in his hands,’ Mr Lewis said. ‘He said this was not the standard set by his father.’ The astonishing scenes came as Mr Murdoch, one of the world’s most powerful businessmen, went into reverse gear over the controversy that has paralysed politics, the media and the police.

With the scandal increasingly threatening the tycoon’s global interests:
News International’s chief executive Rebekah Brooks finally quit after Mr Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth allegedly blamed her for having ‘f*****’ the family firm.

In a statement unprecedented in recent corporate history, the tycoon today apologises for ‘serious wrongdoing’.

Pressure grew on his son James Murdoch, chairman of News Corporation, over ‘hush money’ payments he approved to phone hacking victims.

One of Mr Murdoch’s most trusted lieutenants, Les Hinton, resigned as chief executive of Dow Jones, which publishes the Wall Street Journal and is owned by News Corp.

David Cameron faced fresh questions over his judgement as it emerged he hosted ex-News of the World editor Andy Coulson at Chequers after he resigned as Downing Street’s media chief.

Yesterday saw the downfall of Mrs Brooks, the most powerful woman in British newspapers, apparently after Elisabeth Murdoch, a fellow member of the so-called ‘Chipping Norton set’ with PR man husband Matthew Freud, turned on her.

Full-scale apology: The text of Rupert Murdoch's advertisement which appears as a full page advert in today's national newspapers

Listening: The family of Milly Dowler, from left to right her mother Sally, sister Gemma and father Bob listen to their solicitor after the meeting

Resigned: Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International in London, and Les Hinton, chief executive of Dow Jones & Co in New York, have both resigned in the wake of the phone hacking scandal

Mr Murdoch had spent days fighting to save the flame-haired 43-year-old, who was editor of the News of the World when Milly Dowler’s phone is alleged to have been hacked.

He even closed the Sunday tabloid, Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper, rather than letting go of the woman he is said to have regarded as ‘another daughter’.

Elisabeth Murdoch is also said to be deeply dismayed by her brother James’s handling of the scandal, according to News International sources.

Just yesterday morning, Mr Murdoch was striking a belligerent tone, insisting his newspapers and firms had made only ‘minor mistakes’ in their handling of allegations of phone hacking and police bribery.

But then, in a volte face most observers had long thought inevitable, he agreed to accept Mrs Brooks’s resignation amid signs that his international interests, not just those in Britain, were being damaged.

And today, the mogul strikes a dramatically different tone in an unprecedented public apology published in several British newspapers, including the Daily Mail. The now-defunct News of the World, he says, was in the business of holding others to account but had ‘failed when it came to itself’. ‘We are sorry for the serious wrongdoing that occurred,’ he adds.

‘We are deeply sorry for the hurt suffered by the individuals affected. We regret not acting faster to sort things out. I realise that simply apologising is not enough.’

Mr Murdoch promises to resolve the crisis and ‘make amends for the damage’ – a hint that he may be considering large donations to charity.

Announcing her departure, Mrs Brooks said: ‘My desire to remain on the bridge has made me a focal point of the debate.

Into the storm: Tom Mockridge, chief executive of News Corps' Sky Italia television unit leaves News International Headquarters in London

In the spotlight: Murdoch defended his son James despite his failed BSkyB takeover bid and insisted that he has no plans to stand down as chairman of news International

‘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.’

Mr Cameron said the departure of Mrs Brooks – who will still be required to appear before MPs alongside Mr Murdoch and his son next week – was the ‘right decision’.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said it was ‘right’ that she had gone but added: ‘This is not just about one individual but about the culture of an organisation.’

Mr Hinton, who quit last night, was executive chairman of News International in London from 1995 to 2007, periods when the News of the World was hacking phones.

He said he knew nothing about the hacking but added that ‘the pain caused to innocent people is unimaginable’ and it was ‘proper’ for him to resign from News Corp.

Critics sought to up the pressure on News Corp chairman James Murdoch, who is likely to face fierce questioning from MPs over why he sanctioned out-of-court settlements to victims of phone hacking in an apparent attempt to buy their silence.

Former Treasury minister Lord Myners said shareholders should end the ‘hereditary principle’ that allows the Murdochs to control the broadcaster BSkyB and oust James Murdoch as chairman.

Coulson's Chequers stay AFTER he resigned

David Cameron hosted Andy Coulson at his official country residence two months after he resigned as Downing Street’s director of communications, it emerged last night.

In a sign of his determination to stand by the man he described last week as a ‘friend’, the Prime Minister paid out of his own pocket to welcome the ex-News of the World editor for an overnight stay at Chequers.

Downing Street also issued a list of all of Mr Cameron’s contacts with media proprietors and editors since he entered No 10.

Standing by his friend: Andy Coulson stayed at the Prime Minister's country residence Chequers during March, two months after he resigned as his communications director

Extravagant: Chequers, the Prime Minister's official country residence, where Andy Coulson stayed the night in March

In total, he had 26 meetings with senior figures from Rupert Murdoch’s media empire over 15 months.

That figure equals 41 per cent of the meetings – roughly tallying with News International’s 36 per cent stake in the British newspaper market.

The records show that Mr Cameron visited Rebekah Brooks, who resigned as chief executive of News International yesterday, at her Oxfordshire home over Christmas.

Foreign Secretary William Hague today said that inviting Mr Coulson to Chequers after his resignation was a 'normal, human thing' for the PM to do.

Mr Hague said he was not embarrassed 'in any way' by the Government's relationship with News International executives and defended the Mr Cameron's decision to entertain Mr Coulson at his Buckinghamshire retreat.

Mr Hague told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'In inviting Andy Coulson back the Prime Minister has invited someone back to thank him for his work.

'He's worked for him for several years, that is a normal, human thing to do, I think it shows a positive side to his character.'

Labour condemned Mr Cameron’s decision to invite Mr Coulson, arrested last week over phone hacking at the News of the World, to Chequers two months after his resignation in January.

Media spokesman Ivan Lewis said: ‘This is yet more evidence of an extraordinary lack of judgment by David Cameron. He hosted Andy Coulson at Chequers after, in the Prime Minister’s own words, Mr Coulson’s second chance hadn’t worked out.

‘David Cameron now has an increasing number of serious questions to answer.’

Labour leader Ed Miliband has described Mr Cameron’s decision to take Mr Coulson in to No 10 after last year’s election as a catastrophic misjudgment.

Both Nick Clegg and former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown say they warned the Prime Minister of the political dangers of giving Mr Coulson a government job despite the gathering phone hacking scandal.

Yesterday’s list revealed that James Murdoch and his wife Kathryn lunched at Chequers in November 2010. Mrs Brooks visited Chequers twice, in June 2010 and August 2010, while Colin Myler, former editor of News of the World, met Mr Cameron in July 2010.

Editors and proprietors of other news groups, including the Daily Mail, met the Prime Minister.

A Downing Street source said: ‘David took the view that he should release details of meetings with everyone – every lunch and every dinner. This really is an example of transparency.’



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