Tom Mockridge, the CEO of News International, the U.K. newspaper unit of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., has resigned, the company announced Sunday night.
His exit, effective at year's end, comes amid reports that Dow Jones editor in chief Robert Thomson will take over News Corp.'s publishing company when the media giant splits into two next year. Mockridge, a long-time Murdoch colleague who was born in New Zealand, had been seen as a favorite for the job.
Also read: News Corp. Taps Robert Thomson to Run Publishing Company 
“For nearly 22 years, it has been my pleasure to have Tom Mockridge as a colleague," News Corp. CEO and chairman Murdoch said in a statement. "Whether it was his early days with our newspaper group in Australia, his incredible work building SKY Italia, or his steadfast leadership of News International, Tom has always been a skilled executive and a trusted friend. His decision to step down is absolutely and entirely his own. I am sorry to see him leave us but I know he will be a great success wherever he goes.”
Mockridge previously ran the Sky Italia pay TV business before replacing Rebekah Brooks as head of News International, in the wake of the U.K. phone hacking scandal.
News Corp. is planning to separate the publishing company from its entertainment assets, including its film studio, the Fox broadcast network and its cable networks. The company has always said that Murdoch would remain chairman and CEO of the entertainment company, as well as chairman of the publishing group.
In June, News Corp. announced it would split into two companies  -- one for its publishing assets, including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and HarperCollins, the other for its film and television businesses, including 20th Century Fox studio and Fox News cable channel.
Also read: News Corp. Officially Announces Split Plans 
Thomson was never caught up in the phone hacking scandal that engulfed News Corp.'s U.K. tabloids and led to the shuttering of the News of the World. Other senior News Corp. publishing executives -- including Brooks, the woman Mockridge replaced -- are facing charges in the United Kingdom over their alleged roles in the phone hacking.