LONDON, Aug 28 (Reuters) – Rebekah Brooks will return to her old job heading Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper division, according to the Financial Times and New York Times, just over a year after being cleared of criminal charges in a phone-hacking scandal.
Her return to News Corp could be as soon as early September, the Financial Times said on Friday, citing people familiar with the matter.
Reuters reported in March that Brooks, the former editor of the News of the World tabloid and seen as Murdoch’s protege, was in talks about returning to News Corp.
“As we have said, we have been having discussions with Rebekah Brooks and when we have any announcements to make we will let you know,” a News Corp spokesman said on Friday.
News UK, which covers Murdoch’s British newspaper titles, declined further comment.
If confirmed, the return to one of the biggest jobs in the British media would mark a stunning turnaround for Brooks who became one of the most talked about figures in British public life when the phone-hacking scandal broke.
A public inquiry which ran through 2011 and 2012 heard of the close ties between senior executives at Murdoch’s newspapers, the police and leading politicians, including Prime Minister David Cameron.
Many admitted they had got too close to Brooks as the revelation of regular gatherings at country homes gave the impression of a close knit establishment that had failed to hold itself to account.
The investigation into what went wrong at the papers is also not complete. British prosecutors said on Friday they had received evidence relating to the phone-hacking investigation at the media baron’s newspapers and were considering a possible corporate prosecution.
Brooks rose in 14 years from the most junior newsroom position to edit Britain’s biggest selling newspaper. She was a good friend of the last three British prime ministers, including Cameron, and was often pictured by Murdoch’s side.
She quit in July 2011 amid revelations that News of the World staff had hacked into the phones of thousands of people to break news.
Evan Harris, a former British lawmaker and executive director of Hacked Off, a campaigning group for higher standards in journalism, said Brooks’ return would not be acceptable in any other company.
If confirmed, the return of Brooks could also cause consternation amongst the victims of phone hacking. They told the court and the public inquiry how they felt hounded by the press and unable to trust anyone after private conversations appeared in the newspapers.
As part of her defense, Brooks explained that she had had to work her way up through aggressive, male dominated newsrooms and often felt out of her depth as she was quickly promoted.
Prosecutors charged that if she had not known about hacking in her newsroom, then she must have been incompetent.
The scandal started in 2006 when the former royal editor of News of the World, Clive Goodman, and his investigator Glenn Mulcaire, admitted they had hacked the phones of royal aides.
As revelations grew, police launched a wider investigation in 2011 under the code name Operation Weeting that led to the jailing for 18 months of the paper’s ex-editor Andy Coulson.
Brooks was arrested and charged with being part of a conspiracy to hack into phones to find exclusive stories, of authorizing illegal payments to public officials and of trying to hinder the police investigation.
She denied all the charges and was found not guilty in June 2014 after an eight-month trial. (Additional reporting by Anya George Tharakan in Bengaluru; editing by David Clarke)