Skip to main content

Phone-hacking scandal: Who is Rebekah Brooks?

By Bryony Jones, CNN
updated 6:38 AM EST, Tue November 20, 2012
Rebekah Brooks edited both the News of the World and the Sun, after starting as a secretary and working her way up.
Rebekah Brooks edited both the News of the World and the Sun, after starting as a secretary and working her way up.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Rebekah Brooks charged with trying to obstruct police investigation into phone hacking
  • Brooks was chief executive of News International until she resigned in July 2011
  • She became the youngest-ever editor of a national British newspaper in 2000
  • Rupert Murdoch was said to have treated Brooks like a daughter

London (CNN) -- Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International, has been charged with trying to obstruct a police investigation into the phone-hacking scandal.

Brooks faces three counts of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, linked to claims she plotting to remove boxes of documents from News International offices, and to hide computers and documents from police.

Brooks resigned as chief executive of Rupert Murdoch's News International in July amid public outrage over claims of widespread hacking by staff at its News of the World newspaper.

She was once feted as one of the rising stars of the British media: She was the youngest person ever to edit a national British newspaper, and made a stellar rise through the ranks of Rupert Murdoch's media empire.

Rebekah Brooks makes court appearance
Brooks: My wife is subject of witch hunt
Brooks quizzed over political ties

She held the top job at News International, News Corp.'s British subsidiary, for two years after editing the country's best-selling daily tabloid, The Sun, and its best-selling Sunday tabloid, News of the World.

But following sweeping allegations of illegal eavesdropping by News of the World journalists when she was editor, she has seen her fortunes fade, and was arrested and questioned several times by police investigating hacking, prior to being charged.

Brooks has kept a low profile since her resignation, but was ridiculed in the British press when it was revealed that London's Metropolitan Police had lent her a retired police horse. As politicians became engulfed in the scandal, with allegations that ministers acted improperly in their dealings with News Corp., Prime Minister David Cameron admitted he had ridden the horse.

She appeared before the Leveson Inquiry into press standards to answer key questions about the hacking scandal.

She said she had never witnessed inappropriate dealings with the police, and detailed her frequent contacts with UK Prime Minister David Cameron in the run-up to the 2010 election.

Brought up in Cheshire, northern England, in the 1970s, Brooks is said to have decided on a career in journalism at the age of 14, beginning with a job as a "tea girl" at her local paper.

In her late teens, she moved to Paris, where she is reported to have worked at architectural magazine L'Architecture d'aujourd'hui and studied at the Sorbonne.

On her return to the UK, she worked in regional papers before making the move to Sunday tabloid News of the World in the late 1980s.

Starting out as a secretary, Rebekah Wade -- her maiden name -- swiftly made her way up the editorial food chain, becoming deputy editor by the age of 27.

She tells of how, at a corporate golf day shortly after she was appointed, one senior executive ordered her to sew the buttons back on his shirt. Her response is not known.

Sexism in the workplace aside, Brooks' rise through the ranks continued. She was named deputy editor of the hugely popular Sun newspaper, the News of the World's sister title, in 1998.

In 2000, she returned to the News of the World, this time in the top job, becoming the youngest-ever editor of a national British paper.

While editor of the weekly, Brooks argued for the creation of a U.S.-style "Sarah's Law," which would allow parents with young children to know about anyone convicted of child sex crimes living close to their homes.

As part of the controversial campaign, which was inspired by the murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne in July 2000, Brooks took the decision to name and shame offenders in the pages of her paper.

The lists sparked witch-hunts and riots, as communities across Britain tried to hound pedophiles out of their neighborhoods. It was condemned by police, but Brooks remains unrepentant.

In a 2009 speech, she admitted the campaign was "a blunt and contentious way of informing the public... hard lessons were learned but I don't regret the campaign for one minute."

She married soap star Ross Kemp, famous for his hard-man role as Grant Mitchell in long-running British TV show "Eastenders."

In 2003, she was promoted again, becoming editor of the Sun, a post she held until 2009 when she was handpicked for the role of News International chief executive by Rupert Murdoch.

In the same year Brooks and Kemp divorced and she remarried horse trainer Charlie Brooks. The couple's wedding party was attended by a host of big names, including the Murdoch clan (Rupert, James and Elisabeth), the then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and future-Prime Minister David Cameron.

Brooks and Murdoch had been close for many years: before her downfall Rupert Murdoch was said to have treated Brooks like a daughter. Whether the relationship has survived the scandal remains unclear.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 7:46 AM EST, Fri November 30, 2012
In the wake of the scandal, a high court judge has urged the government to order Britain's press to behave. What will the report mean?
The Leveson inquiry is a British government-backed inquiry into illegal eavesdropping and bribery by journalists. Read the final report by Lord Leveson.
updated 6:30 AM EST, Fri November 30, 2012
Could the phone-hacking scandal prove to be a blessing in disguise for Murdoch? He claimed to have been "humbled" by the scandal.
updated 11:40 AM EST, Thu November 29, 2012
Months passed since some of the key players in the Leveson inquiry gave their statements. Here's a reminder of the best quotes.
Phone-hacking scandal revealed the dark side of tabloid journalism. Should it lead to a stricter press regulation? Share your views with CNN.
updated 7:34 AM EST, Thu November 29, 2012
Revelations that murdered UK schoolgirl Milly Dowler 's phone was hacked sparked outrage. But who was the girl at the center of the scandal?
updated 7:22 AM EST, Thu November 29, 2012
Jacqui Hames says she was a victim of surveillance by News of the World -- causing her stress that eventually led to the breakdown of her marriage.
updated 1:21 PM EST, Wed November 28, 2012
Media expert Brian Cathcart says Fleet St. has grabbed its megaphone and started bellowing out its usual message: leave us alone.
updated 12:42 PM EST, Mon November 19, 2012
How did phone hacking grow into a scandal that threatened Rupert Murdoch's hold on his global media business? Track all the major events.
updated 6:38 AM EST, Tue November 20, 2012
Rebekah Brooks was once feted as one of the rising stars of the British media. Now she is at the center of the phone-hacking scandal.
updated 7:53 AM EST, Thu November 29, 2012
Rupert Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch is the last of a dying breed: An old-fashioned press baron with ink running through his veins, a hefty checkbook, and a hunger for the next big story.
updated 6:33 AM EST, Thu November 29, 2012
James Murdoch, head of News Corp's European operations
James Murdoch was widely regarded as heir-apparent to his father global media empire. All that changed when the hacking scandal broke.
updated 8:43 AM EDT, Wed April 25, 2012
On his Twitter feed Rupert Murdoch reveals a love of nature, a hatred of windfarms and a desire to put the boot into the UK government.
ADVERTISEMENT