Brooks, whose youth, mane of red hair and former marriage to a soap opera star have given 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.”
She said she felt “a deep sense of responsibility for the people we have hurt.”
That appeared an acknowledgment that the News of the World’s invasions of private voicemails went well beyond those of the royal aides whose complaints led to the jailing of a reporter and an investigator in 2007. Police say they are now probing whether another 4,000 people — including victims of crimes, bombings and war — were targeted.
Former motor-racing boss Max Mosley told Reuters on Friday he had agreed to underwrite lawsuits that victims of alleged intrusive reporting may bring against News International.
Mosley, who won damages from the News of the World after it published revelations about his sex life, said he would cover the potentially large costs if people rejected settlement offers and pressed forward with litigation.
Tom Watson, a Labour MP who has led the campaign against the News International papers, said Brooks’ departure could put James Murdoch, his father’s heir apparent, in the spotlight.
“Because she has taken so long to go I think the focus will very swiftly move on to James Murdoch now and what he knew and what he was involved in,” Watson told Sky News.
A week ago, Brooks had told News of the World staff, who were sacked with the paper’s closure, that she would remain to try and resolve the company’s problems — causing anger among many of the 200 being laid off. Some accused Murdoch of sacrificing their jobs to save hers.
Brooks could receive a seven-figure payoff but that is likely to come with a strict agreement she keeps her silence, legal experts and a former executive said on Friday.
As well as its published apology this weekend, the company would also write to its commercial partners to update them on its actions, James Murdoch said. Many advertisers had said they would boycott the News of the World before the company killed it off and refused paid advertising in last Sunday’s final edition.
“The Company has made mistakes,” James Murdoch wrote to staff. “It is not only receiving appropriate scrutiny, but is also responding to unfair attacks by setting the record straight.”
Analysts welcomed the tone.
“It is obvious that the company is finally listening fully to the political noise around it and is finally taking seriously the issues that have emerged around alleged offences at News International,” said Claire Enders, head of Enders Analysis Media Consultancy.
Reuters is a competitor of Dow Jones Newswires, the financial news agency that News Corp acquired along with the Wall Street Journal in 2007. (Additional reporting by; Stefano Ambrogi, Michael Holden, Matt Falloon, Mark Hosenball, Tim Castle and Karolina Tagaris in London, Basil Katz, Carlyn Kolker and Yinka Adegoke in New York; Writing by Paul Thomasch and Keith Weir; Editing by Alastair Macdonald, Myra MacDonald and Richard Chang)