Media magnate Rupert Murdoch has lost his most trusted US executive as the phone hacking scandal claimed the scalp of Dow Jones boss Les Hinton.
He stepped down just hours after the resignation of former News of the World editor and News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks following days of pressure.
Mr Hinton, who was head of News International (NI) from 1995 to 2007.
Ms Brooks was at the helm of the NoW when missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler's phone was hacked and messages deleted.
The resignations intensified the storm surrounding NI - with Rupert Murdoch putting his name to a public apology in the press for "serious wrong-doing" and meeting the murder victim's family to apologise.
Mr Murdoch, 80, referred to the three key developments as part of a "difficult day".
He paid tribute to Mr Hinton, who worked for him for 52 years, saying they had enjoyed a "remarkable journey together".
He said: "That this passage has come to an unexpected end, professionally, not personally, is a matter of much sadness to me.
"On this difficult day we should appreciate that his extraordinary work has provided a platform for the future success of Dow Jones.
"And his great contribution to News Corporation over more than five decades has enhanced innumerable lives, whether those of employees hired by him or of readers better informed because of him.
"News Corporation is not Rupert Murdoch.
"It is the collective creativity and effort of many thousands of people around the world, and few individuals have given more to this company than Les Hinton."
Best-selling newspaper The Sun, another of the tycoon's titles, was also dragged into the scandal when the actor Jude Law accused it of phone hacking.
He is suing the tabloid, claiming it published four stories about him in 2005 and 2006 that came from hacked intercepted voicemails.
Mr Murdoch had tried to put a lid on the scandal rocking his media empire by meeting Milly's family.
The "humbled" media mogul gave a "full and sincere apology" to Milly's parents Sally and Bob and her sister Gemma at a meeting in a central London hotel yesterday.
In a separate development designed to take the heat off his empire, Mr Murdoch used newspaper adverts to apologise for the hurt the scandal had caused.
"We are sorry," the adverts, published in UK newspapers today, say.
"The News of the World was in the business of holding others to account. It failed when it came to itself.
"We are sorry for the serious wrongdoing that occurred. We are deeply sorry for the hurt suffered by the individuals affected. We regret not acting faster to sort things out."
The apology came hours after an interview with the News Corp-owned Wall Street Journal in which Mr Murdoch said the company had handled the crisis "extremely well in every possible way", making just "minor mistakes".
A second advert will appear in newspapers on Sunday and Monday, outlining the steps that News International and parent company News Corp have taken to investigate and address previous wrongdoing and prevent it from happening again.
After doggedly defending Ms Brooks, the elderly Australian bowed to pressure and accepted her resignation.
Ms Brooks said she quit to avoid distracting attention from efforts to "fix the problems of the past".
Mr Murdoch is understood to have turned down at least one previous offer to resign ahead of the News of the World's closure.
He gave her a very public show of support when he flew into London on Sunday to take personal control of the crisis.
In an email to staff, Ms Brooks said she had wanted to help steer News International "through the heat of this crisis", but added: "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 said her resignation would allow her time to give full co-operation to the police investigation into phone hacking and police bribes, the judge-led inquiry launched by Mr Cameron, and her appearance alongside Rupert and James Murdoch before the House of Commons Culture Committee on Tuesday.
She was swiftly replaced as News International chief executive by Sky Italia chief executive Tom Mockridge.