We are sorry, Rupert Murdoch said in British newspapers on Saturday, as News Corp tried to quell the uproar over a phone-hacking scandal that has shaken the company and claimed its top two newspaper executives.
In full-page adverts, Murdoch pledged concrete steps to resolve the issue in a bid to regain the initiative after losing Les Hinton, head of Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal, and Rebekah Brooks, head of News Corp's British newspaper arm, on Friday.
But some questioned if the apologies and resignations would allay public and political anger over allegations the Murdoch-owned News of the World newspaper hacked thousands of phones, including that of a murdered 13-year-old girl.
The scandal forced Murdoch to close the best-selling Sunday paper, and drop a $12 billion plan to buy full control of highly profitable pay-TV operator BSkyB.
The News of World was in the business of holding others to account. It failed when it came to itself, Murdoch said in a rare show of contrition.
We are sorry for the serious wrongdoing that occurred. We are deeply sorry for the hurt suffered by the individuals affected, added the note, signed by Murdoch.
More apologies are expected to be published in British Sunday newspapers, headlined, Putting right what's gone wrong.
The spotlight now turns to Murdoch's son and presumed successor, James, who took over the European operations of News Corp as the crisis was beginning. He and Murdoch, along with Brooks, face a grilling in Britain's parliament on Tuesday.
The attempts at conciliation included Murdoch's personal apology on Friday to the parents of Milly Dowler in what appeared to be an admission the News of the World, then edited by Brooks and overseen by Hinton, had in 2002 hacked into the voicemails of their missing daughter who was later found murdered.
That allegation reignited a five-year-old scandal and may have also broken the grip that Murdoch, 80, held over British politics for three decades as leaders from Margaret Thatcher, through Labour's Tony Blair to current Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron sought his support.
SKEPTICISM ON APOLOGY
British parliamentarian John Prescott, asked by the BBC on Saturday if Murdoch's apology changed anything, replied, Absolutely not.
For him to say I'm sorry -- it was only 24 hours ago in America in the Wall Street Journal that (Murdoch said) they were only minor offences. ... This is a man desperately trying to save his company and ditching everybody else in the process, Prescott said.
Lawmaker John Whittingdale, head of the parliamentary committee that will question the Murdochs and Brooks, told Reuters on Friday that while an apology was long overdue, investigations into wrongdoing had a long way to go.
Cameron has pledged a judge-led inquiry, and police are renewing their efforts. Questions are being asked over how much News Corp and executives at newspaper arm News International knew about phone hacking, and whether authorities were misled.
In his note, Murdoch admitted that simply apologizing is not enough, but posting the message could help Murdoch regain his grip on events that in recent days spun out of his control.
It's a good strategy. The problem is it's too late. Is it repairing the damage? No. But the strategy is that it's trying to move the story into a second phase, said Charlie Beckett of the London School of Economics' Polis journalism think tank.
The big question mark is how vulnerable is Rupert ultimately, but James in particular, and Rebekah and Les in terms of what they were told and ignored, he added.
GASPS, STUNNED SILENCE
Hinton stepped down as the British phone hacking scandal surrounding News Corp began to spread to the United States. He was the highest-ranking executive yet to resign over the crisis.
I have watched with sorrow from New York as the News of the World story has unfolded, Hinton wrote in a memo after stepping down as head of Dow Jones.
That I was ignorant of what apparently happened is irrelevant and in the circumstances I feel it is proper for me to resign from News Corp, and apologize to those hurt by the actions of the News of the World, he added.
At the Wall Street Journal, news of Hinton's departure was greeted by gasps and a stunned silence, despite much speculation in London and New York that he could be toppled by the scandal.
Brooks had resisted pressure to quit, but finally resigned as chief executive of News International after a chorus of calls for her to go. She said remaining had made her a focus of the debate and detracted from resolving issues at the company.
The flame-haired and sharp-tongued executive and former editor of News of the World was a favorite of Murdoch, who only days ago described Brooks as his first priority.
Cameron had also called on Brooks to resign. His closeness to her and also his decision to hire former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as his communications chief, embarrassed the prime minister and raised doubts over his judgment.
On Friday, Cameron tried to put the issue behind him by releasing a list of meetings he has had with media executives.
It emerged that Coulson visited Cameron in March, two months after quitting his job on Cameron's staff amid allegations of phone hacking while he was a newspaper editor. Coulson was arrested last week over the issue and later released on bail.
In inviting Andy Coulson back, the prime minister ... invited someone back to thank him for his work, who worked for him for several years. That is a normal human thing to do, I think that shows a positive side to his character, British Foreign Secretary William Hague told BBC radio on Saturday.
(Reporting by Mohammed Abbas; Editing by Peter Cooney)