LONDON -- Rupert Murdoch touched down in London yesterday to take charge of his media empire's phone-hacking crisis as his best-selling Sunday tabloid, the News of the World, published its last issue. The scandal lives on despite his sacrifice of the 168-year-old paper at the heart of it.
The scrapping of the tabloid has not tempered British anger over improprieties by journalists working for Murdoch, and his $19-billion deal to take full control of satellite broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting remains in jeopardy.
The News Corp. boss, 80, was seen reading the paper's last issue as he was driven to the east London offices of his U.K. newspaper division, News International. Later, at his London apartment, he met with News International's chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, who led News of the World when its reporters committed some of the most egregious ethical lapses.
Murdoch has publicly backed Brooks, who says she had no knowledge of wrongdoing. They left the residence about an hour after she arrived, smiling for photographers and camera crews gathered outside before walking to a nearby hotel for a meal.
The drama gripping media watchers has expanded at breakneck pace following allegations News of the World journalists paid police for information and hacked into the voice mails of a young murder victim and of the grieving families of dead soldiers. Three people have been arrested, including Prime Minister David Cameron's former communications chief.
In its last edition, the paper issued a full-page apology.
"We praised high standards, we demanded high standards but, as we are now only too painfully aware, for a period of a few years up to 2006 some who worked for us, or in our name, fell shamefully short of those standards," the editorial read. "Quite simply, we lost our way."
Some of the 200 journalists being laid off from News of the World appeared to sneak in their own message to Brooks, who kept her job. Clues in a crossword puzzle included "Brook," "stink," "catastrophe" and "criminal enterprise."
The paper's demise does not end the questions surrounding Murdoch's media conglomerate, which has been hugely influential in British politics.
Closing it down was seen by some as a desperate attempt to stem negative fallout from the hacking scandal and thus save Murdoch's $19 billion bid for full ownership of BSkyB, in which he already holds a stake. The government has signaled that deal will now be delayed.
Cameron has conceded that politicians developed too cozy a relationship with the tabloid press. He has called for a new media regulation system and pledged a public inquiry into what went wrong. His former communications chief, Andy Coulson, an ex-editor of the News of the World, was arrested last week as part of a police investigation into the hacking and corruption allegations.