Editor of Rupert Murdoch's Times of London Resigns

James Harding steps down after five years at the helm thanking the News Corps. leader for the privileged position -- but also making it clear the company wanted him out.

LONDON – James Harding has resigned from his post as Times editor after five years, telling journalists on the paper that he was leaving because Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation had made it clear it wanted him to go.

According to reports in both The Guardian and The Telegraph here, Harding called together the paper's editorial staff to tell them he had resigned and will leave at the end of the month.

In his speech to the staff, Harding said he "called Rupert this morning to offer my resignation and he accepted it."

Harding noted: "This job is a constant privilege and I hope you will, like me, look back with a sense of achievement at the work we have done."

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He said he was "proud" of the paper's campaigns on tax avoidance and adoption as well as its "unflinching foreign coverage."

He thanked Murdoch for the "great honor" he did him in appointing him editor of the paper and said it was "a privilege and a point of pride" to work there.

Murdoch said: "James has been a distinguished editor for the Times, attracting talented staff to the paper and leading it through difficult times. I have great respect for him as a colleague and friend, and truly hope we can work together again."

Harding's exit, according to the reports, came as a shock to his colleagues with several journalists on the paper taking to Twitter to tweet their surprise.

Kaya Burgess, a Times journalist tweeted: "Gutted James Harding is leaving as Editor of The Times," while fellow reporter Jay Schlesinger wrote: "James Harding's departure is a massive loss for us.  Office quietest I've ever known."

Harding gathered staff to a meeting at 3:30 p.m. GMT Wednesday to announce his decision and will leave the paper – and publisher News International – at the end of the month.

Most recently, Harding has been heavily involved in negotiations with the government in the wake of the Leveson inquiry into media ethics which called for sweeping changes to newspaper controls.

Leveson's report was first commissioned in the wake of the News of The World phone hacking scandal that engulfed Murdoch's News International, News Corp.'s publishing division which also counts The Times and The Sun among its titles.

Harding was appointed editor of the newspaper five years ago at the age of 38 -- the youngest ever editor of the paper in its history.