James Murdoch is to return as the chairman of Sky four years after a phone-hacking scandal forced him out, regaining his grip on a pay-TV group that now spans five European countries.
Mr Murdoch’s return to a senior role in Britain could fuel speculation that 21st Century Fox, the global media group which Mr Murdoch runs from New York, may seek to buy all of Sky instead of just the 39 per cent it currently holds.
I am proud to have been asked by the board to serve as chairman of Sky...James Murdoch
The younger son of the media tycoon, Rupert Murdoch, stepped down as the chairman of the-then BSkyB in 2012, forced out by his links to a tabloid phone-hacking scandal at the family’s now-defunct News of the World newspaper.
Having returned to New York he rebuilt his career and in 2015 was named the chief executive of 21st Century Fox, one of the most important media companies in the world.
Jeremy Darroch, chief executive of Sky, said: “James’ 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.”
Mr Murdoch returns to a company that, in his absence, has expanded into Europe with assets in Germany, Austria, Italy, Britain and Ireland. On Friday it announced a better-than-expected 12 per cent rise in profit helped by a record number of new customers.
Operating profit hit £747m for the six months to end-December, ahead of the £727m pounds expected by analysts according to a company-supplied consensus.
It added 337,000 new customers in the second quarter, with strong growth in both TV and broadband and its highest numbers of new customers in its biggest UK and Ireland market for 10 years.
Mr Murdoch replaces Nick Ferguson, who has been chairman since 2012 and on the board for 12 years, at the end of April.
The in-coming chairman said: “I would like to thank Nick for his outstanding contribution to the board over the last decade and more.
“I am proud to have been asked by the board to serve as chairman of Sky, one of the world’s leading pay TV companies. Jeremy and the team at Sky have done an outstanding job in building a dynamic and successful company.”