LONDON // Rupert Murdoch has embarked on an exercise in pre-emptive contrition ahead of Tuesday's parliamentary hearing into phone hacking at the News of the World.
In a marked change of tactics by the media mogul, British newspapers carried advertisements bearing personal apologies from him yesterday and others are to follow todayand Monday, outlining what News International - the Murdoch newspapers' parent company in the UK - is doing to clean up the hacking mess.
Rebekah Brooks, a former News of the World editor, resigned as News International's chief executive on Friday along with Les Hinton, the boss of News Corp's Dow Jones and publisher of its flagship Wall Street Journal. Mr Hinton has been one of Mr Murdoch's most trusted lieutenants over the past half-century.
Late on Friday, the 80-year-old media mogul also met the parents of Milly Dowler, the 13-year-old schoolgirl abducted in 2002 and found murdered six months later.
It was the disclosure almost a fortnight ago that her phone had been hacked by the News of the World that led to a furious public turning on the Murdoch empire, more than five years after the scandal had first broken.
Mr Murdoch told the Sun yesterday: "It was a totally private meeting. As founder of the company I was appalled to find out what had happened and I apologised."
In his signed statement in the newspaper advertisements, Mr Murdoch offered a personal apology for the scandal, which has not only involved hacking but claims of bribes to police officer. "We are sorry for the serious wrongdoing that occurred," he said.
He said the company would soon "take further concrete steps to resolve these issues and make amends for the damage they have caused".
The statement appeared in marked contrast to the tone he had taken in an interview with the Wall Street Journal only two days earlier when he had insisted that the company had handled the phone-hacking crisis "extremely well in every possible way" and had made just "minor mistakes".
Lisa O'Carroll, a journalist with The Guardian, which has exposed much of the hacking scandal, commented on the newspaper's website yesterday that Mr Murdoch's change of tactics "heralds a fresh tack in Rupert Murdoch's campaign to end the crisis that has frequently left him flat-footed".