Rupert Murdoch, the global media baron, has apologised for phone hacking at his London newspapers in the wake of the scandal that has forced one newspaper to close and led to the resignations of two executives.

The apology, published in major British newspapers on Saturday, came hours after Rebekah Brooks resigned as chief executive of News International and Les Hinton quit as chief executive of Dow Jones.

Hinton held the same position as Brooks at the London-based company from 1995 to 2007.

In full-page adverts, Murdoch pledged "concrete steps" to resolve the issue in a bid to regain the initiative after losing the two executives.

New International publishes the Times, the Sunday Times and the Sun, which is the best-selling daily in the UK. A fourth paper, the News of the World, was closed a week ago as the scandal sparked public outrage.

The phone hacking happened in 2002 when Brooks was the editor of the News of the World. She moved on in 2003 to edit The Sun.

Hinton, appointed chief executive of News Corp-owned Dow Jones in 2007, took responsibility for the scandal as he was head of News International when the phone hacking went on.

Murdoch heads News Corp, a parent company of News International, while his son James runs the company's operations in Europe.

The News of the World hacked thousands of phones, including that of a murdered 13-year-old girl, and the apology appears to be an admission of guilt.

BSkyB bid dropped

The scandal has forced Murdoch to drop a $12bn plan to buy full control of highly profitable pay-TV operator BSkyB.

"The News of the World was in the business of holding others to account. It failed when it came to itself," Murdoch said in the apology.

"We are sorry for the serious wrongdoing that occurred. We are deeply sorry for the hurt suffered by the individuals affected."

More apologies are expected to be published in British Sunday newspapers, headlined: "Putting right what's gone wrong".

The spotlight now turns to James Murdoch, 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 scandal may break the grip that Murdoch, 80, has held over British politics for three decades.

Leaders from Margaret Thatcher, through Labour's Tony Blair to David Cameron, the current Conservative prime minister, are understood to have sought his support.

Source: Agencies