LONDON — Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a major shareholder in Rupert Murdoch's scandal-hit News Corp. organisation, on Thursday said under-fire executive Rebekah Brooks "had to go".

"For sure she has to go, you bet she has to go," News Corp.'s second largest shareholder said of Brooks on BBC's Newsnight programme.

Brooks, who is due to face MPs next week over claims that the now defunct News of the World newspaper hacked phones while she was editor, is the chief executive of News International, the British newspaper arm of News Corp.

The phone-hacking scandal escalated on Thursday after the FBI announced it was to launch an investigation to find out if News Corp. titles hacked into the phones of US citizens.

Murdoch sought to calm shareholders' fears on Thursday, telling the Wall Street Journal that the damage to News Corp. in Britain was "nothing that will not be recovered".

Brooks was editor of the mass-circulation tabloid in 2002 when it was claimed to have hacked the phone of missing schoolgirl Millie Dowler, who was later found murdered.