By CASSELL BRYAN-LOW and RUSSELL ADAMS
Dow Jones & Co. Chief Executive Les Hinton resigned late Friday, as the top executive at News Corp.'s financial publishing unit sought to contain the damage from the company's British tabloid scandal, which began while he oversaw the company's U.K. newspaper operations.
Mr. Hinton said that he was "ignorant of what apparently happened" at the company's tabloid newspapers earlier in the decade. He characterized his lack of knowledge as "irrelevant" and said it was "proper" for him to step down.
Mr. Hinton's announcement came hours after Rebekah Brooks, the embattled chief executive of News International, News Corp.'s U.K. newspaper unit, resigned. She acknowledged the reputation of the company was "at risk."
The resignations were part of an aggressive new damage-control campaign by the media company, which also publishes The Wall Street Journal.
The company has been besieged for weeks by calls for the ouster of Ms. Brooks, and questions about Mr. Hinton's knowledge of techniques used by reporters at News Corp.'s News of the World weekly tabloid. The scandal focuses primarily on allegations that employees of News of the World illegally intercepted mobile-phone voice mails and bribed police.
The resignations of Ms. Brooks and Mr. Hinton—both trusted lieutenants to News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch—came as Mr. Murdoch took steps in London to demonstrate remorse for the scandal.
Mr. Murdoch met with and apologized to the family of a murdered 13-year-old girl, Milly Dowler, whose phone was allegedly hacked by News of the World in 2002. The revelation last week that Ms. Dowler's phone had been accessed vaulted the scandal to a higher level of public outrage and led to unrelenting calls for Ms. Brooks's resignation.
News Corp. also said it planned to run a full-page advertisement in national U.K. papers Saturday, signed by Mr. Murdoch, in which the CEO apologized for "the serious wrongdoing that occurred" at the News of the World. "We regret not acting faster to sort things out. I realise that simply apologizing is not enough," he added.
The question now is whether the latest moves will be enough. Company executives are expecting more bad news and embarrassing revelations as News Corp. deals with various legal challenges, including a large-scale investigation by London's Metropolitan Police into phone hacking and corrupt payments to police. That has involved nine arrests this year, including that of Andy Coulson, who succeeded Ms. Brooks as News of the World editor. None of the individuals has been charged.
Following the meeting between Mr. Murdoch and the Dowler family in central London Friday afternoon, the family's lawyer, Mark Lewis, said that Mr. Murdoch was "very humble, very shaken and very sincere" as he apologized repeatedly to the family.
"He said the words sorry, this should have not happened, this was not the standards set by his father, a respected journalist, not the standard set by his mother," Mr. Lewis said.
People familiar with the matters said the resignation of Ms. Brooks—who had offered to leave twice before—came as company executives realized that her continued, politically charged presence was a distraction to News Corp.'s rehabilitation efforts.
The resignation of Mr. Hinton creates a challenge for News Corp. The company is eager to wall off the properties Mr. Hinton has lately overseen—including the Journal and Dow Jones Newswires—from the messy British tabloid scandal.
News Corp. and Dow Jones officials sought to underscore that point late Friday.
Mr. Murdoch, who counted Mr. Hinton as a colleague for 52 years, said Mr. Hinton was "far from the serious issues in London." Robert Thomson, editor in chief of Dow Jones and managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, said Mr. Hinton had served with "distinction and dignity" at Dow Jones.
But Mr. Hinton had come under increasing media scrutiny because, in 2007 and 2009, he told a parliamentary committee in the U.K. that the company had carried out a full investigation of the phone-hacking matter and found that just one journalist was involved—a statement that turned out to be wrong.
Mr. Hinton reiterated his position that his testimony before Parliament was honest, saying that if there was evidence to refute the notion that wrongdoing went beyond one journalist, he was not aware of it.
The departures set the stage for Tuesday, when Mr. Murdoch, his son James, who is News Corp.'s deputy chief operating officer, and Ms. Brooks will appear at a high-profile Parliamentary hearing to face questions from U.K. politicians about the hacking and News Corp.'s response.
The latest moves come as the company's previous responses to the crisis—shutting down the News of the World, the U.K.'s best-selling Sunday paper, and the abandonment of its bid to take full control of pay-TV company British Sky Broadcasting GroupPLC—had fallen short with an angry public.
As political pressure continued to mount, in the U.K. and the U.S., it became apparent to company executives that those actions weren't enough, one of the people familiar with the matter said.
In replacing Ms. Brooks, the media conglomerate turned to someone from within the company's ranks but who appears far removed from the tarnished British tabloid world. Her successor is Tom Mockridge, a New Zealand native who has been chief executive of Sky Italia, the media giant's Italian satellite television unit, since its launch in 2003. Prior to that, he was CEO of a New Zealand company, Independent Newspapers and Chairman of Sky New Zealand.
Mr. Mockridge, 56 years, joined News Corp in 1991. He didn't respond to requests for comment.
Spokespeople for News Corp. said Mr. Murdoch, his son, Mr. Hinton and Ms. Brooks weren't available for comment.
"I feel a deep sense of responsibility for the people we have hurt and I want to reiterate how sorry I am," Ms. Brooks said in an email to staff Friday. "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," she added.
As a protégé of Mr. Murdoch's, Ms. Brooks had quickly risen to be one of the U.K.'s most powerful journalists. Ms. Brooks cut a distinctive path through the British newspaper world with a drive and determination that won her a place close to Mr. Murdoch. Known for her ability to charm, and striking red hair, Ms. Brooks is well connected within the U.K.'s political and business elite.
Both Prime Minister David Cameron and his predecessor, Gordon Brown attended her wedding to Charlie Brooks, a racehorse trainer and who is an old friend of Mr. Cameron's. Since May of last year, Ms. Brooks has made several social and other visits to the prime minister, including twice to his official country residence, according to records released on Friday.
Speaking before Parliament earlier this week, however, Mr. Cameron distanced himself from her, saying that if her resignation had been offered, it should have been accepted.—Alistair MacDonald and Jessica E. Vascellaro contributed to this article.