Gotcha: Rebekah Brooks, Britain's tabloid queen, resigns

15th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

For Rebekah Brooks, the woman dubbed Rupert Murdoch's "fifth daughter", resigning as chief executive of his British newspaper wing will mean leaving a family where she has spent most of her working life.

The 43-year-old redhead started out as a secretary and rose to become editor first of the News of the World, then its daily stablemate, The Sun, before taking over as chief executive of the group that owns them, News International.

During that time she proved herself to be charming but ruthless in pursuit of a story, a relentless networker but also extremely loyal to the 80-year-old Murdoch.

Observers say it was because of her close relationship with the media tycoon that Brooks clung to her job for so long, when 200 journalists and staff at the News of World were not so lucky following the 168-year-old tabloid's closure last week.

"Ruperts wisdom, kindness and incisive advice has guided me throughout my career," Brooks wrote in her parting message to staff on Friday.

"I have worked here for 22 years and I know it to be part of the finest media company in the world.... I leave with the happiest of memories and an abundance of friends."

After flying in to Britain on Sunday, reporters asked Murdoch what his priority was. He gestured towards Brooks, who was walking alongside him, and replied: "This one."

Brooks edited the News of the World from 2000 to 2003, when some of the hacking is alleged to have taken place. She insists she knew nothing of the practice.

After years in which she embodied the power of Murdoch's empire over British politicians, she was abandoned by her friend Prime Minister David Cameron, who said that she should have resigned.

Cameron has a house near Brooks in rural Oxfordshire, central England, and attended her wedding in 2009 when she married her second husband, former horse trainer Charlie Brooks.

Other guests included Murdoch and then Labour prime minister Gordon Brown.

But Murdoch has backed her throughout and many commentators had viewed his decision to close the News of the World as a sacrifice to save Brooks.

Brooks's troubles are not over, however, as she must face a parliamentary committee on Tuesday to answer questions about the scandal. Murdoch and his son James, the chairman of News International, will also attend.

She admitted as much in her statement.

"My resignation makes it possible for me to have the freedom and the time to give my full cooperation to all the current and future inquiries, the police investigations and the CMS (Culture, Media and Sport committee) appearance," she said in her letter to staff.

Her last appearance before the committee did not go well, with Brooks admitting that "we have paid the police for information in the past", though she later said she was referring to the industry in general.

Ivor Gaber, professor of political journalism at City University in London, said her resignation raised more questions than it answered.

"Firstly, why did she take so long to do this? Secondly, is this unrelated to her summons to appear before the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee?" Gaber said.

Brooks reportedly wanted to be a journalist from the age of 14, growing up in Cheshire, northwest England, before studying at the Sorbonne in Paris.

After a stint in the regional press she joined the News of the World at the age of 20, rising to editor in 2000.

Three years later she moved to become the first female editor of The Sun -- famed for its harsh headlines including "Gotcha" when British forces sank the Argentine ship General Belgrano during the 1982 Falklands War -- where she stayed for six years.

Her own personal life has, at times, been as colourful as some of the stories in the mass-market papers she edited.

In 2005 she was arrested and then released without charge after police were called to the house she shared with her first husband, British television actor Ross Kemp, who had suffered a cut to the mouth.

And ironically, her high profile job meant she was even a target of phone hacking by a News of the World investigator at the time.

Colleagues spoke of her ability to get what she wants through charm, though she was also prepared to take a direct approach.

Brown said she had personally called him to tell him that The Sun was going to run a front-page story saying that his son Fraser had cystic fibrosis, a move that the gruff former premier said left him "in tears."

© 2011 AFP

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