The most striking thing about Rebekah Brooks, aside from her oft-rhapsodized shock of red hair, may be the loyalty she manages to inspire in media baron Rupert Murdoch and his coterie of executives - a loyalty that has remained even as she is mired in scandal.
The 43-year-old chief executive officer of News International, which publishes the British newspapers owned by News Corp., has been thrown into the spotlight by the phone-hacking scandal at its most profitable Sunday newspaper, News of the World.
But News. Corp. executives have circled the wagons. Rupert Murdoch reportedly refused her offer to resign. On Thursday, his son James Murdoch, who oversees News Corp.'s U.K. operations, told ITN News that he is "convinced that Rebekah Brooks's leadership of the company is the right thing. … Her leadership is actually crucial right now."
In more than 20 years with the company, Ms. Brooks (née Wade) has moved up the ranks to be named the youngest-ever editor of a British national newspaper, when she took the helm of News of the World in 2000, and the first female editor of its weekday sister publication, The Sun, in 2003. She was appointed to her current position in 2009.
All the while, she has been a well-known figure who has also resisted the spotlight. After an appearance before a parliamentary committee in 2003, when she said that News of the World had paid money to police sources for stories, she was reported to say it was best if she was seen and not heard.
"She's quite an enigmatic figure," said media analyst Claire Enders. "She doesn't talk. She doesn't say anything. She doesn't get interviewed."
Paradoxically, she is also known as a highly social person, a charming, well-mannered and ambitious woman who has made her way into the inner circle of influential people in British society and politics.
She is known as an excellent operator at the newspaper company, bringing a deep background in journalism and a sharp intelligence to running the two largest circulation papers in the country.
"I can understand why James Murdoch … regards her as an indispensable tool," said former newspaper executive Jeremy Deedes. "She's what I'd call a leader of men.
"But what one can't get away from is that these things happened on her watch. The buck stops with the man or woman at the top, it's them that walk the plank. And in this case that hasn't happened."
At least, not yet. On Friday, British Prime Minister David Cameron disagreed with Rupert Murdoch's decision and said he would have taken Ms. Brooks' resignation. In a meeting on Friday, Ms. Brooks alluded to more revelations to come that would herald "a very dark day for this company," The New York Times reported.
Some speculate that the Murdochs want to wait until the investigation brings the worst elements of the hacking case to light, allowing them to lay the blame on her shoulders, fire her, and shield James Murdoch from the fallout, if at all possible.
""I hope that you all realize it is inconceivable that I knew or, worse, sanctioned these appalling allegations," Ms. Brooks wrote in a memo to staff earlier this week.
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