Rebekah Brooks, the loyal lieutenant of Rupert Murdoch, resigned last night as chief executive of his embattled British newspapers, becoming the biggest casualty in the News of the World phone hacking scandal.
Murdoch had vigorously defended Brooks in the face of demands from politicians that she step down, and had previously refused to accept her resignation.
She was editor of the News of the World between 2000 and 2003, the time of the most explosive allegation to hit Murdoch's News Corp empire, and had been in charge of News International's four British newspapers since 2007.
"As chief executive of the company, I feel a deep sense of responsibility for the people we have hurt and I want to reiterate how sorry I am for what we now know to have taken place," Brooks said in an email to colleagues, made public by News International.
"I have believed that the right and responsible action has been to lead us through the heat of the crisis. However, my desire to remain on the bridge has made me a focal point of the debate.
"This is now detracting attention from all our honest endeavours to fix the problems of the past."
Former Aucklander Tom Mockridge, chief executive of News Corp's Sky Italia television unit, will succeed Brooks.
Brooks agreed on Thursday to answer questions next week from a UK parliamentary committee investigating the phone hacking and police bribery scandal that is consuming British media and politics.
Murdoch and his son James first refused, then agreed to appear before the MPs, after the committee raised the stakes by issuing formal summonses to them.
Last night, James Murdoch said News International would run advertisements in leading papers apologising to Britain for the hacking scandal.
Brooks was no stranger to controversy. While editor of the News of the World, she started a "naming and shaming" campaign identifying paedophiles after the murder of schoolgirl Sarah Payne.
The campaign boosted circulation and eventually led to new legislation but was blamed by some for sparking vigilantism and even thwarting police investigations.
Taranaki, Italy, London
Rebekah Brooks' replacement is a New Plymouth-born Kiwi, now in his mid-50s, who started his career as a reporter at the Taranaki Daily News in the late 1970s.
But much of Tom Mockridge's career since the 1980s has been overseas, where he had several top media jobs.
He returned to New Zealand in 2001 and spent 17 months as chairman of Sky TV and chief executive of Independent Newspapers Ltd.
In mid-2002, Rupert Murdoch asked him to go to Italy to run News Corp's 50 per cent-owned pay television company Stream.
He then became chief executive of Sky Italia in May 2003 after yet another merger.
While in New Zealand Mr Mockridge and his wife lived in Devonport in a $4 million award-winning home. They still have family in Auckland.