LONDON — James Murdoch is to return as chairman of pay TV operator Sky nearly four years after resigning in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal at News International, where he was executive chairman.
He is the chief executive officer of 21st Century Fox, which is Sky’s largest shareholder with a 39.1% stake, and his re-appointment as Sky chairman will stoke speculation that Fox will revive efforts to take full control of Sky.
Murdoch, who will replace Nicholas Ferguson as Sky chairman at the end of April, joined Sky’s board in 2003, serving as chief executive from 2003 to 2007, and as chairman from 2007 to 2012. He was also CEO of Star, the Asian satellite television group, from 2000 to 2003.
Before becoming Fox CEO last year, he was co-chief operating officer of the company, and previously served as chairman and CEO, International. He serves as a member of the board of News Corporation, and is a non-executive director of Yankee Global Enterprises and Vice Media.
Sky, which is led by CEO Jeremy Darroch, has 21 million subscribers across five countries: the U.K., Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy. It has annual revenues of more than £11 billion ($15.8 billion), and is Europe’s leading investor in television content with a combined programming budget of £4.9 billion ($7.05 billion).
Ferguson will step down as a director of Sky at the end of April after 12 years on the board. After joining the board as a non-executive director in 2004, he was appointed as chairman in 2012, and has led the board during a period of strong growth for the company, including the transaction to merge the Sky businesses in Europe.
Murdoch commented: “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. As chairman, I look forward to working with the board and management as they continue to deliver a great service for Sky’s customers and create value for all shareholders over the years to come.”