Rebekah Brooks to return as News Corp UK chief - report

Rebekah Brooks Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Rebekah Brooks stood down as chief executive four years ago but could now return

News Corp has said it is in talks with Rebekah Brooks after reports she will return as chief of its UK division.

The former News of the World editor quit as UK chief executive four years ago amid the phone-hacking scandal. She was later cleared of any wrongdoing.

Her re-appointment could be confirmed next month, the Financial Times said.

Campaign group Hacked Off said it was a sign of an "unreformed, unrepentant press", but a former Times executive editor said hacking was in the past.

Mrs Brooks edited both the Sun and the NoW in a long career at Rupert Murdoch's company.

She resigned as UK chief executive in July 2011 in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal at the NoW, which eventually closed the paper.

Royals, celebrities and victims of crime were among those whose phones were hacked by journalists at the Sunday tabloid.

Mrs Brooks had denied any involvement and was cleared of charges relating to phone hacking last year. Andy Coulson, another former NoW editor, was jailed after being convicted of conspiracy to hack phones.

Image copyright Rex Features
Image caption Mrs Brooks, pictured with Rupert and James Murdoch, said she felt "vindicated" after her trial

Dr Evan Harris, joint executive director of Hacked Off, said Mrs Brooks's re-appointment would show News Corp was a "dynastic, mafia-type corporation", with no regard for the feelings of the victims of phone hacking.

"Yes she's entitled to her verdict of not guilty - but she achieved that with a defence of incompetence; she didn't know what was happening, and yet she's coming back. It's astonishing."

But Roger Alton, ex-executive editor of the Times, said Mrs Brooks had been an effective chief executive who was held in high esteem by the company.

"The phone-hacking scandal is in the past... She is an extremely effective, talented person, most likeable, extremely good with people," he said.

The move would be a "PR challenge" for Mr Murdoch, but "he values loyalty - she is very loyal, and he's been very loyal to her", he added.

Profile: Rebekah Brooks

Image copyright AFP

Rebekah Brooks, formerly Wade, started out in journalism as a teenager.

She joined the NoW aged 20, working her way up to become editor in 2000 - at the time the youngest editor of a national newspaper. In 2003 she moved to the Sun, becoming the first woman to edit the title.

Described by friends as charming, clever and persuasive, she forged close ties with politicians from all parties, including David Cameron.

After six years at the Sun, she was appointed chief executive of parent company News International (now called News UK) in 2009.

In 2011, the NoW closed amid the phone-hacking scandal. A week later Mrs Brooks resigned.

In May 2012, she was charged over phone hacking but denied any wrongdoing and was acquitted in June 2014.

The FT's media correspondent Henry Mance said a return could be perceived as a "slight triumph" for Mrs Brooks, but some former colleagues might not welcome it.

"One senior journalist said she was nothing short of a nightmare, as an editor, that she would send 25 angry emails every morning saying the coverage isn't good enough," he said.

Before the phone-hacking scandal, Mrs Brooks gave Rupert Murdoch a "bridge to the British political scene", he said.

"It may well be that that is what he expects to happen again," he said.

'File of evidence'

The FT also reported that David Dinsmore, the current Sun editor, was to take a senior operational role at News UK and will work alongside Mrs Brooks.

The leading candidate to replace him is Tony Gallagher, deputy editor of the Daily Mail and a former editor of the Daily Telegraph, the FT said.

A News Corp spokeswoman said: "When we have any announcements to make we will let you know."

Meanwhile, UK prosecutors said they were considering a file for possible corporate prosecution over phone hacking at the News of the World.

The file relates to evidence gathered as part of Operation Weeting, which investigated illegal voicemail interceptions at the Sunday tabloid.

The Crown Prosecution Service said: "We have received a full file of evidence for consideration of corporate liability charges relating to the Operation Weeting phone-hacking investigation."

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