Embattled Rupert Murdoch on Wednesday vowed News Corp. would bounce back from the phone-hacking scandal, saying he would never tolerate such behaviour at his global media empire.
“I want all of you to know that I have the utmost confidence that we will emerge a stronger company,” he said in a message to staff, seen by AFP.
“It will take time for us to rebuild trust and confidence, but we are determined to live up to the expectations of our stockholders, customers, colleagues and partners.”
The 80-year-old chief executive was questioned for more than two hours by parliamentarians in London on Tuesday over the scandal that has rocked his business and forced two of Britain’s top police chiefs to quit.
Their departure followed the resignations of trusted confidante and former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks and another close Murdoch adviser, Les Hinton.
“I was shocked and appalled by recent allegations concerning the News of the World, and I am deeply sorry for the hurt that was caused,” he said to staff.
“And we have taken responsibility. I have led this company for more than 50 years and have always imbued it with an audacious spirit.
“But I have never tolerated the kind of behaviour that has been described over these past few weeks. It has no place at News Corporation.
“These serious allegations made about some of our former employees at the News of the World directly contravene our codes of conduct and do not reflect the actions and beliefs of our many employees.”
At the hearing in London, Murdoch denied ultimate responsibility for the hacking that forced him to shut the News of the World.
But he apologised to the victims, saying at the outset: “I would just like to say one sentence. This is the most humble day of my life.”
It was enough to see the company’s heavily sold-down stock spike 5.51 percent to US$15.79 in New York, a rise mirrored in Australian trade, where it closed 5.1 percent higher at Aus$15.24.
As the scandal has deepened, Murdoch’s position at the head of his company has been questioned, but a source close to the News board said reports of a push for executive change were a “beat up”.
“The view is that Rupert has done an amazing job over many years building (News Corp) and he is heading into a very difficult period and deserves the board’s support,” the source told his flagship newspaper here, The Australian.
“Will these events specifically lead to change at News? Probably not. But Rupert is 80, so change is coming anyway and there will be a time when he hands over responsibilities to other people.”
In his message to staff, the mogul said he was taking “urgent steps” to ensure the problems that tarnished his legacy at the News of the World would never happen again.
He said the company had created an independent management and standards committee, chaired by Lord Grabiner, a London-based commercial lawyer, with oversight by News Corp. board members Joel Klein and Viet Dinh.
Murdoch also pointed to the closure of the 168-year-old News of the World and the resignations of Brooks and Hinton as actions taken to control the crisis.
In Australia, Prime Minister Julia Gillard warned Murdoch’s local operations they faced some “hard questions” as calls intensified for a media inquiry following the British hacking scandal.
“I’m not going to engage in running commentary on testimony but I do believe Australians… are looking at News Limited here and are wanting to see News Limited answer some hard questions,” Gillard said.
News Limited chief John Hartigan has insisted there has been no similar wrongdoing in Australia.