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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Les Hinton, the top executive of Rupert Murdoch's Dow Jones & Co, resigned on Friday after becoming a target of criticism for the phone-hacking scandal that occurred when he oversaw News Corp's British newspapers.
"I have watched with sorrow from New York as the News of the World story has unfolded," Hinton, who also served as publisher of the Wall Street Journal, wrote in his resignation letter.
"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," he added.
News Corp, parent of Dow Jones, has been at the center of a storm over a voicemail hacking scandal at its tabloid News of the World.
Another top Murdoch confidante, Rebekah Brooks, who worked under Hinton when she was News of the World's editor, also resigned earlier on Friday.
Hinton, 67, has worked alongside Murdoch for more than five decades, rising through the ranks until he was tapped to run News International in 1995, and later Dow Jones after News Corp bought the publisher of the Wall Street Journal.
A person close to the company described Hinton as "the ultimate company man" who in recent days had come to the conclusion that someone had to take full responsibility for the hacking that occurred under his watch.
The decision was made over the past few days, following back-and-forth discussions with Murdoch, the person said, adding that the final say boiled down to Hinton.
"Les saw the hurt that was happening with the company and wanted to ameliorate the situation," the person said.
Hinton's departure is the latest dramatic development at News Corp, which is attempting to quiet the storm surrounding revelations of telephone hacking at News of the World. The resignations of two top Murdoch lieutenants follows News Corp's decision to abandon a $12 billion plan to buy full control of pay TV operator BSkyB.
At the Wall Street Journal, news of Hinton's resignation was greeted by gasps and a stunned silence, despite speculation in both London and New York that Hinton could be toppled by transgressions that occurred on his watch.
On two occasions, Hinton addressed British parliamentary committees about the News of the World phone hacking, testifying both times that a full internal investigation had been carried out.
That testimony has resurfaced in press reports over recent days as new questions have been made about the depth of phone hacking at the tabloid -- including allegations that victims of notorious crimes, bombings and war may have been targeted.
Following Hinton's departure, Dow Jones President Todd Larsen will report to News Corp Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey, the company said. The company is not seeking a replacement for Hinton at present.
Reuters is a competitor of Dow Jones Newswires, the financial news agency that News Corp acquired along with the Wall Street Journal in 2007.
Reporting by Paul Thomasch and Yinka Adegoke; editing Carol Bishopric