Rebekah Brooks, the former tabloid editor who was cleared of all charges in Britain's phone hacking scandal, is returning to News Corp to run Storyful, the company's social media news agency.
The return of one of Rupert Murdoch’s closest allies – and a former chief executive of News Corp’s UK subsidiary – has been the subject of much speculation since her acquittal last summer. A recent visit to News Corp’s New York offices sparked talk that she would take a senior role with the company in the US.
However, two people familiar with the situation told the Financial Times that Ms Brooks would continue to be based in the UK but would spend time in Dublin at Storyful’s headquarters. Her new role will include Storyful and expand to other potential digital ventures for News Corp.
News Corp bought Storyful in 2013 for $25 million (€18 million). The company uses social media feeds, user-generated content and proprietary technology to frame news reporting.
"Storyful is both a symbol of our digital and global aspirations and a substantive contributor to them," Robert Thomson, News Corp's chief executive, said in December. His comments came as the company announced that Mark Little, Storyful's founder and chief executive, was moving to a new role. Mr Little was replaced as Storyful chief executive by Rahul Chopra.
News Corp declined to comment on Ms Brooks, who has been on a four-year break from the company since resigning as chief executive of News International – now known as News UK – in 2011.
People familiar with the matter cautioned that negotiations between News Corp and Ms Brooks were ongoing and the precise details of her new role were still being ironed out.
Her resignation came amid a public outcry at revelations that journalists working for its News of the World tabloid had illegally intercepted voicemails left for the missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler, who was later found murdered.
Ms Brooks, a former editor of The Sun, was eventually charged with several phone-hacking related charges, together with other former journalists and News International executives, including Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor who went on to run communications for David Cameron.
Ms Brooks was cleared by the court of all charges but Mr Coulson was found guilty and served five months in prison of an 18 month term.
Ms Brooks is supremely well connected in political and media circles. During the trial it emerged that Tony Blair, the former UK prime minister, had sent her an email the day after the story broke about the News of the World illegally accessing Milly Dowler's voicemails. In the note Mr Blair offered his support, saying: "Let me know if there is anything I can help you with?.?.?.?Thinking of you?.?.?.?"
Ms Brooks was also close to Mr Cameron, enjoying “country suppers” with the UK prime minister, the court was told.
Mr Murdoch’s support for Ms Brooks during the hacking scandal was unwavering. After closing the News of the World in 2011 he and Ms Brooks were approached by a reporter who asked what his top priority was. He motioned to Ms Brooks, saying: “This one.”