Flashback: AFR profile
News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch has announced that John Hartigan will step down as chairman and chief executive officer of the company's Australian arm, News Ltd, at the end of the month, beginning a major shift in the leadership of Australian media companies.
He will be replaced by the Foxtel chief executive, Kim Williams, as CEO, and as chairman by Mr Murdoch, the dominant controlling shareholder and chairman of News Corp.
Mr Hartigan's touted successor and head of its digital operations, Richard Freudenstein, will replace Mr Williams, with News having the right to appoint Foxtel's chief executive despite now owning only a quarter of the company.
"John's decision will end a distinguished 41-year career with News in which he has given us exemplary service and incredible leadership," Mr Murdoch said in a press release.
"Few people have contributed as much as John to the quality of journalism in Australia. He has earned enormous respect among both colleagues and competitors."
Mr Hartigan said in the same statement: "I am immensely proud of News. I am privileged to have worked for such a great company. I want to thank the many colleagues that have helped, encouraged, inspired and challenged me to be the best I can be."
The New York-based Mr Murdoch personally delivered the news of Mr Hartigan's resignation during a visit to Australia.
It comes just days after the company held its in-house awards night on Friday, attended by Mr Murdoch, at which Mr Hartigan admitted the current economic conditions had been tough for the company.
"Like most companies, we have been tested by a tough economy," he was quoted as saying in News Ltd's The Australian. "But unlike most others, we've had to endure unprecedented and unwarranted slurs on our integrity. Our reputation has come under renewed and relentless attack."
The announcement came after the close of trade on the Australian stock exchange, with News Ltd shares closing flat at $17.12.
The removal of News Corp's most senior executive in Australia comes amid a time of turmoil for the company, which has seen its British division - News International - come under intense scrutiny over the phone hacking scandal that brought about the downfall of British tabloid the News of the World.
Media industry stunned
His resignation took the online community by surprise, with people - mostly journalists - tweeting their shock by the announcement.
''Wow! .... Murdoch strikes!'' tweeted journalist and author Paul Barry.
''Great day for resignation announcements. First Silvio Berlusconi and now John Hartigan. Who's going to make it a trifecta?'' another tweeted.
''Rupe's in town and Hartigan leaves the building,'' one Twitter user wrote, pointing out that Mr Murdoch was currently in Australia.
Others said it was more significant Mr Murdoch was taking over as chairman, saying: ''THIS is the key piece of news''.
A spoof account of Mr Murdoch joined in with some quips.
''A government #mediainquiry begins in Australia, and by Day 2 John Hartigan, CEO of my Oz newspaper empire, quits. NOTHING TO SEE HERE,'' @RupertMurdochPR wrote.
Turnbull praises 'one of fittest 64-year-olds'
Malcolm Turnbull, MP for Wentworth, issued a statement praising Mr Hartigan's achievements.
"He leaves a great company for Kim Williams to take over.
"John says that he expects to be focussing his attention on Bondi Beach in future. While I would hesitate to suggest there is the faintest tinge of inaccuracy, even implausability, in such a distinguished journalist's remarks, and while as the Member for Wentworth I can hardly question the allure of Bondi, nonetheless I feel that John Hartigan's remarkable business and media career is far from over.
"He is one of the fittest 64 year olds I know and I have no doubt we will be hearing a lot more from Mr Hartigan in theyears ahead. Well done John and good luck – not just at the beach either!"
"A journalist is what I am"
Mr Hartigan gave the keynote speech at the Andrew Olle Media Lecture in 2007.
But John Kenneth Hartigan did not introduce himself as the shot-caller. His occupation, he said, was ''journalist''.''A journalist is what I am, who I am and what I will always be,'' he said.
''Journalism took me out of the suburbs and into the big smoke: Sydney in all its raffish elegance, and later, London and New York.''
He began his career at Fairfax at 16 as a copy boy, but has worked at News Ltd for the past four decades.
He started at News Ltd as a reporter for the Daily Mirror in 1970, and worked through the stable of the company's publication.
He became the editor of Sydney's Daily Telegraph in 1986, rising to CEO in 2000 and chairman in 2005.
Reflecting on his career in his Olle lecture, he recounted the time he was known as a socialist and a scab.
In 1975 he supported strike action at News Ltd, because of The Australian's coverage of the Whitlam dismissal.In 1980, he was accused of working during an industrial dispute.
''If you believe the folklore that surrounds News, my stand in 1975 would have marked me as a carping socialist, unfit for promotion,'' he said.
''My stand in 1980 would have consigned me to the scrapheap of scabs and lackeys that could never be trusted by my comrades again.
''The truth is, neither happened. Life is more complex than that and so is journalism.''
Last year he gave the opening address at the Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers Association future forum conference.
He said we were approaching: ''the most exciting era for journalism. The most exciting era ever.''
He spoke of the need for newspaper publishers to embrace new technology.
''Firstly we have to get over ourselves and recognise this is an opportunity, not a threat,'' he said.
''The challenge for journalists is to seize the opportunity.
''The challenge for management is to create the right environment for them and then get out of the way.
''I don't think we've ever had a more exciting or rewarding future in prospect than the one that now awaits journalists with the right creative spirit and entrepreneurial flair.
''I wish I was starting out all over again."
with Glenda Kwek and Alicia Wood
[View the story "@Bigharto weighs in on his resignation" on Storify]