James Murdoch returns as Sky boss four years after fall

Rupert Murdoch’s son James will return as chairman of British broadcaster Sky

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Global media magnate Rupert Murdoch’s son James will return as chairman of British broadcaster Sky, the company said on Friday, nearly four years after he was forced to leave over a phone hacking scandal.

“The board has appointed James Murdoch to succeed Nicholas Ferguson as chairman,” the company said in a statement to the London Stock Exchange.

Analysts said the move will fuel speculation that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp is preparing a new takeover bid for Sky -- a deal it abandoned in the wake of the hacking scandal.

James Murdoch served as chairman between 2007 and 2012 but quit over a scandal involving the phone hacking of celebrities and crime victims by the Murdoch-owned tabloid News of the World.

He had been executive chairman of his father’s British newspaper publishing arm.

The News of the World weekly newspaper was subsequently shut down.

The paper’s former editor Rebekah Brooks was arrested on suspicion of being involved in the voicemail interception by journalists but was cleared of all charges in 2014.

Last year she was appointed to head up Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, which owns The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times newspapers.

James Murdoch is currently CEO of 21st Century Fox, the jewel in the crown of his father’s media empire which owns 39 percent of Sky.

Shore Capital analyst Roddy Davidson said Murdoch’s return would likely “rekindle speculation regarding 21st Century Fox’s plans for its 39 percent stake”.

Murdoch has always seen the aborted deal to takeover Sky as “unfinished business,” the BBC quoted its sources as saying.

Sky offers pay television and Internet services in five countries: Austria, Britain, Germany, Ireland and Italy.

“James’s deep knowledge of the international media industry and his passion for supporting Sky’s ongoing success will make an even greater contribution to our business in the future,” said Jeremy Darroch, Sky’s chief executive.

Murdoch’s appointment came as Sky published earnings showing its highest customer growth in Britain and Ireland for 10 years, with 337,000 people joining in the second quarter.

The group also announced Friday that first-half operating profits had risen 12 percent to £747 million (984 million euros, $1.0 billion).

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