James Murdoch returns as Sky chairman

James Murdoch returns as Sky chairman after stepping down in 2012. Picture: Chris Young/AFP/Getty Images
James Murdoch returns as Sky chairman after stepping down in 2012. Picture: Chris Young/AFP/Getty Images
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James Murdoch is to return to Sky as its chairman, almost four years after he resigned from the company in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal.

He takes up his position after a short stint as chief executive of media giant 21st Century Fox, a role he only took up in July, succeeding his father, Rupert.

Murdoch, the younger son of the media tycoon, has been a director of the pay-TV company since 2003 and previously served as chief executive from 2003 to 2007, before holding the position of chairman from 2007 to 2012.

He bowed to pressure to resign from the role in April that year following the scandal that erupted following phone-hacking involving the Murdoch-owned News of the World.

He takes over as chairman of Sky – which is 39 per cent owned by Fox – from Nick Ferguson, who steps down from the Sky board at the end of July after 12 years as a director.

READ MORE: Sky expected to boast profit and customer growth

Sky executive Jeremy Darroch said: “The entire board offers its warmest thanks to Nick for his leadership as chairman and the major contribution he has made to Sky over many years. We’re delighted that James Murdoch has agreed to step into the role of chairman.

“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.

“We’re excited about 2016 and we start the year with good momentum. With an outstanding set of new initiatives and products for our customers, we are well positioned to deliver further strong growth and returns for shareholders.”

The group also said today that Aberdeen Asset Management chief executive Martin Gilbert, who has served on the Sky board since November 2011, has been appointed deputy chairman.

Murdoch’s appointment comes as Sky revealed its highest customer growth in the UK and Ireland for ten years, with 337,000 people joining the broadcaster in the second quarter.

The pay-TV giant also secured record first-half operating profits – up 12 per cent to £747 million – while revenues grew 5 per cent to £5.7 billion in the six months to 31 December.

Darroch added: “We have had another very strong half as we continue to transform Sky, broadening our business and expanding into new markets and customer segments.”

He said the company’s strategy was “delivering today and opening up significant growth opportunities for the future”.

The return of Murdoch will now pose questions as to whether 21st Century Fox will mount a takeover bid for Sky. Analyst Roddy Davidson, at Shore Capital, said the move was likely to “rekindle speculation regarding 21st Century Fox’s plans for its 39 per cent stake”.

Sky shrugged off the mounting threat from rival BT in October when it notched up its best first-quarter UK customer growth for four years.