News Corp has confirmed Rebekah Brooks as chief executive of News UK, the publisher of the Times, Sunday Times and the Sun, a year after she was cleared of all charges related to the phone-hacking scandal.
Brooks, who received a payoff of more than £10m after resigning from News Corp in 2011, replaces Mike Darcey, who is to leave after three years.
News UK has also hired Tony Gallagher, the deputy editor of the Daily Mail, as editor-in-chief of the Sun.
Incumbent David Dinsmore has been moved into the role of chief operating officer.
“Rebekah will lead a great team at News UK into the digital future, while maximising the influence and reach of our newspapers, which remain the most informative and successful in Britain and beyond,” said Robert Thomson, chief executive of News Corp.
“Her expertise, excellence and leadership will be crucial as we work to extend our relationship with readers and advertisers, and develop our digital platforms to take full advantage of our brilliant journalism.”
Brooks, who will also take responsibility for the acquiring and developing digital assets such as video news agency Storyful, was first reported to be returning to run the UK operation in June.
Her appointment comes as the Crown Prosecution Service considers bringing corporate charges against News International – now News UK – over phone hacking.
Rumours about the defection of the 51-year-old Gallagher, who becomes the first person to edit a broadsheet newspaper and a tabloid, emerged in early August.
Gallagher, previously editor of the Daily Telegraph, refused to confirm rumours that he was in the running for the job as recently as the end of last week. It was formally offered to him over the weekend.
“It is my great pleasure and honour to be taking charge at the Sun,” he said. “It’s a job I couldn’t possibly turn down and I’m looking forward to working closely with Rebekah, David and the rest of the team at the Sun. I can’t wait to get started.”
Paul Dacre, the editor-in-chief of the Mail titles, is understood to have given his blessing to Gallagher’s appointment and there are said to be no hard feelings about his decision to leave.
Gallagher added: “I’ve really enjoyed being back at the Daily Mail and especially the chance to work closely with Paul Dacre, who has been a superb mentor throughout my career. It’s only right I should thank him and his team for everything they have done for me – but this is the opportunity of a lifetime. I can’t wait to get started.”
Earlier in his career Gallagher served as head of news at the Mail, where he was part of the Mail Online launch team.
Brooks officially starts at News UK on Monday, while Gallagher and Dinsmore will move into their new roles “in the coming weeks”.
Thomson is understood to be visiting News UK next week and Murdoch is scheduled for the following week, leading insiders to believe that Gallagher could start as soon as the 14th September.
Shadow culture secretary Chris Bryant, who last week referred to reports of Brooks’ imminent return as “two fingers up to the British public”, said her failure to handle the phone-hacking scandal raised questions about her competency to lead the company.
“So far as I can see, Rebekah Brooks’ defence was that she was incompetent and had no idea what was going on and the end result was that the company lost £300m,” he said. “It mystifies me that Rupert Murdoch would want to reappoint her.”
Tom Watson, a Labour MP and critic of the Murdoch empire during the phone-hacking scandal, said:
“I hope Rebekah Brooks will use her good fortune to make the world a better place in her second period of leadership at News UK,” he said. “The Labour Party will continue to press News UK and others media companies to support the full implementation of the Leveson proposals [on press regulation]”.
It is not clear what salary Brooks is likely to be paid on her return, but Darcey is certainly set to receive a hefty pay-off.
His predecessor Tom Mockridge, now chief executive of Virgin Media, received a severance package worth £7.2m after leaving in December 2012.
Darcey, the former chief operating officer at Sky UK, brought the pay-TV subscription mentality to the Sun, which was put behind a paywall two years ago.
Gallagher will oversee a reversal in that strategy – the paywall was relaxed in June and the tabloid’s web traffic is being officially measured against rivals for the first time since mid-2013 – to take on his former employer at Mail Online.
Gallagher, who is expected to make the Sun’s coverage more “comprehensive” and less The Only Way is Essex, has a digital mountain ahead of him.
The first web traffic figures from the Sun’s partial relaxation of its paywall stood at 800,000 daily browsers; the Mail stood at 14 million.