Dow Jones CEO Les Hinton is resigning from his position, becoming the latest (and first American) casualty of the News Corp. phone hacking scandal. He was the executive chairman of News International from 1995 to 2007, immediately preceding Rebekah Brooks, who resigned from her post as CEO of that News Corp. subsidiary only hours before Hinton stepped down from his job.
Hinton has been under scrutiny recently for his role as News International’s head during the time that much of the hacking apparently took place. Earlier this week, there was speculation that if Brooks were to resign from her position, Hinton—long one of Rupert Murdoch's closest associates—could be next in line to leave the company.
Dow Jones staff was informed by a Journal news alert, followed by an internal email from Murdoch and Robert Thomson, the Journal's managing editor.
A Dow Jones employee, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the initial reaction to Hinton's resignation in one part of the organization was "Yay, he's gone." But that quickly dissipated.
"People aren't joyful. They're worried about what this means," the employee said. “There’s a lot of people who don’t like being owned by News Corp., but a lot of us realize without News Corp., a lot of us wouldn’t have jobs. News Corp. continued to invest, there were no mass layoffs here. Les was
certainly a part of keeping Dow Jones intact.”
In his resignation letter, Hinton expressed his distress at watching News International and News of the World crumble under the weight of the hacking scandal. “I have seen hundreds of news reports of both actual and alleged misconduct during the time I was executive chairman of News International and responsible for the company,” he wrote. “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.”
Hinton also defended his innocence in the affair, saying that he believed that the “rotten element at the News of the World had been eliminated” when he left the company in 2007, and that his testimonies before the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee on the topic of the hacking were “given honestly.”
In a statement, Rupert Murdoch said, "Les and I have been on a remarkable journey together for more than 52 years. That this passage has come to an unexpected end, professionally, not personally, is a matter of much sadness to me. 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. News Corporation is not Rupert Murdoch. It is the collective creativity and effort of many thousands of people around the world, and few individuals have given more to this Company than Les Hinton."
During his first testimony before Parliament, in March 2007, Hinton claims to have believed that private investigator Clive Goodman had acted alone, and by the time of his second testimony in September 2009, he said, “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.”
Additional reporting by Lucia Moses.