Murdoch's son takes over as chair of Sky, renewing buyout speculation

LONDON -- James Murdoch will be taking over as chairman of the board for European broadcaster Sky, a move that will renew speculation that his family's media empire will try to take over the company, in which it already has a stake.

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The 43-year-old is the second son of tycoon Rupert Murdoch, whose family assets include The Wall Street Journal, Fox News and the 20th Century Fox movie studios.

James Murdoch will succeed Nicholas Ferguson four years after resigning from what was then known as BSkyB amid the phone-hacking scandal.

"We're delighted that James Murdoch has agreed to step into the role of chairman," said Jeremy Jeremy Darroch, group CEO. "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."

James Murdoch served as chief executive from 2003 to 2007, before holding the position of chairman from 2007 to 2012. But while briefly in charge of British newspapers for Murdoch family interests, James Murdoch was tainted by the phone-hacking scandal that forced the closure of the tabloid News of the World in 2011.

He has denied any involvement, but the furor provided a setback to the man seen as vying for control of the empire with his elder brother Lachlan. The outcry that followed the scandal has largely died down, following the conclusion of an inquiry into the behaviour of the media, and after several attempts to prosecute journalists on bribery and other charges failed to secure any spectacular convictions.

James Murdoch became CEO of Twenty-First Century Fox last year after Rupert Murdoch, one of the most powerful men in global media, began preparing to hand over aspects of his empire to his sons.

But James Murdoch's elevation to role of chair will also fan rumours about Sky's future ownership. Shore Capital analyst Roddy Davidson said James Murdoch's return was likely to "rekindle speculation regarding 21st Century Fox's plans for its 39 per cent stake."

The announcement came as Sky reported first half results in the highly competitive U.K. television and broadband market. Analysts like Charlie Huggins of Hargreaves Lansdown lauded the company for its strongest growth in 10 years in its retail customer base, but noted that profits would be hit as the company absorbed 630 million pounds ($900 million) per annum of additional Premier League costs.

Sky plc serves 21 million customers across five countries: UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy.


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