|Rebekah Brooks has been transformed from one of Britain’s most powerful female executives to a figure of scorn. (Leon Neal/ AFP/ Getty Images)|
Arrest caps meteoric rise, fall from grace
LONDON - Rebekah Brooks dined with Britain’s prime minister over Christmas and got a public show of support from her boss, Rupert Murdoch, before the cameras this month as allegations of phone hacking on her watch mounted.
Now the 43-year-old UK media executive is a criminal suspect, her world of power and connections shattered by scandal.
Brooks, who quit as head of Murdoch’s British newspapers Friday, was arrested yesterday in a widening investigation into years of alleged phone hacking of prominent Britons, as well as bribing police for information, at the now-closed tabloid News of the World.
The arrest sealed Brooks’s swift transformation from one of Britain’s most powerful female executives to a figure of scorn.
Brooks has been at the center of the storm since the scandal broke.
She was a loyal lieutenant of Murdoch and served as editor of the News of the World for part of the time when the tabloid’s journalists allegedly hacked into telephone messages.
Reports of illegal eavesdropping had percolated for years, but revelations that journalist had hacked into the voice mail of a 13-year-old murder victim, Milly Dowler, in 2002 caused a public uproar.
The scandal was deemed toxic for the tabloid, and Murdoch shut down the 168-year-old newspaper. Brooks was vilified for initially clinging to her job while 200 journalists lost theirs.
Brooks’s career with the News of the World began in 1989, after briefly working for Murdoch’s group as a secretary. She started as a features writer, then became features editor, associate editor, and ultimately deputy editor. She left the tabloid in 1998 to become deputy editor of Murdoch’s other London tabloid, The Sun, where she stayed for two years.
When Brooks returned to the News of the World as editor in 2000, she was only 31 years old - a feat for Britain’s press establishment.
She peppered the tabloid with celebrity scandals, and drew praise for using the newspaper as a platform to help get sex offender legislation, known as “Sarah’s Law,’’ passed in Britain.
In another stint at The Sun, another Murdoch tabloid, Brooks became its first female editor in 2003. Six years and a host of scoops later, Brooks was named chief executive of News International, joining the elite circle of Murdoch confidants.
No longer drafting the headlines from her perch in the executive suite, Brooks has still made plenty of them - from her lunches and social calls with top politicians to one unusual brush with the law.
In 2005, Brooks was arrested for allegedly attacking her husband, soap-opera star Ross Kemp. No charges were filed.
Brooks’s second marriage, to former racehorse trainer Charlie Brooks, came in 2009. The couple have been known to rub shoulders with some of Britain’s most prominent politicians and appear at society events from Windsor Castle to Wimbledon.
Brooks cultivated a close friendship not just with Prime Minister David Cameron of the Conservative Party, but with the wives of former prime ministers Gordon Brown and Tony Blair of the Labor Party.