LONDON (AP) - James Murdoch, the executive at the epicenter of the phone hacking scandal at his father's British newspapers, is stepping down as executive chairman of News Corp.'s U.K. newspaper arm, the company announced Wednesday.
News Corp. said James, the youngest son of 80-year-old media mogul Rupert Murdoch, has relinquished his position at News International to concentrate his efforts on television. He will still remain deputy chief operating officer of News Corp., he said.
The one-time heir apparent to his father, James Murdoch, 39, has been embroiled in controversy amid speculation over his role in Britain's expanding phone-hacking scandal.
The scandal brought down Murdoch's 168-year-old News of the World tabloid and led to the arrests of more than a dozen journalists. Other top News International executives have resigned, but in the immediate aftermath Rupert Murdoch insisted his son James had his full support.
The younger Murdoch has said he was unaware of any indication that hacking was rife at the News of the World, a claim disputed by former colleagues.
James Murdoch was hauled before British lawmakers to testify about his knowledge of the scope of phone-hacking at News of the World, but his testimony has been repeatedly called into question as new details emerge from a media-ethics inquiry and three parallel police investigations.
In a statement, James Murdoch thanked the dedication of his colleagues at the company who he said worked "tirelessly to inform the public." He also praised the company's latest British newspaper, The Sun on Sunday, which had its first edition last weekend.
"With the successful launch of The Sun on Sunday and new business practices in place across all titles, News International is now in a strong position to build on its successes in the future," he said in a statement.
Tom Mockridge, chief executive of News International, will continue in his post and will report to News Corp. President and Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey, the company said.
Rupert Murdoch praised his son's leadership at News International, saying in a statement James has made "lasting contributions" to the group's global strategy.
"Now that he has moved to New York, James will continue to assume a variety of essential corporate leadership mandates, with particular focus on important pay-TV businesses and broader international operations," he said.