Legal head of News International leaves company -source

LONDON (Reuters) - Tom Crone, the legal manager at Rupert Murdoch's UK newspaper arm, which is fighting widespread hacking allegations, has left the company, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters on Wednesday.

Crone, a senior News International executive for 26 years, had oversight of all editorial legal matters for The Sun and the News of the World newspapers.

No reason was given as to why Crone had stepped down.

The News of the World, a tabloid that was at the heart of the phone hacking scandal engulfing News Corp and its News International newspaper division, published its last edition on Sunday.

It was closed abruptly by News Corp after a scandal originally thought to have involved celebrities, politicians and other high-profile figures erupted over news investigators also targeted crime victims, and that the affair may have gone back further -- and wider -- than originally thought.

This turned attention to key News International officials, including close Murdoch confidante and former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks, and the likes of Crone, who had previously appeared before parliament to answer questions on phone hacking.

Crone was described by one senior Fleet Street lawyer as "quiet" and "professional": "He's got one of those electric brains where he'll assimilate things very quickly."

Crone worked closely with the editors of The Sun and News of the World, said the lawyer, and a former Fleet Street reporter who had experience of dealing with him. He would have been responsible for approving many of the front pages of the two tabloids.

News Corp has withdrawn its bid for British satellite broadcaster BSkyB, after the phone hacking scandal caused a wave of public and media outrage [ID:nL6E7ID1W9].

(Reporting by Georgina Prodhan, Jodie Ginsberg and Rosalba O'Brien)