Rebekah Brooks, Rupert Murdoch Protege, Returns to Run British Newspapers

LONDON — Rebekah Brooks will return to her old job running Rupert Murdoch's British newspapers, one year after she was cleared of criminal wrongdoing in one of the biggest media and political scandals to hit the country.

Brooks, who worked her way up from the lowest rung on a newsroom ladder to become a Murdoch protege and one of the most influential people in Britain, will resume oversight of the Sun and Times of London papers on Monday in a remarkable comeback.

Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International (R) walks into a hotel with Rupert Murdoch (L) Chairman of News Corporation in London, Britain on 10 July 2011. The final edition of the 168 year old British Sunday newspaper, the News of The World went on sale on 10 July 2011 after James Murdoch announced it's closure following further revelations over phone hacking. EPA/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA EPA, file

A close friend to the last three British prime ministers, Brooks quit in 2011 after the News of the World tabloid she had once edited admitted hacking into thousands of phones to generate stories, including the phone of a murdered schoolgirl.

The admission sparked an uproar that engulfed Murdoch's media empire, forcing the closure of the 168-year-old tabloid and a televised grilling in parliament of the Australian-born tycoon and his son James, who apologized.

A year-long public inquiry also exposed the close ties between senior News Corp executives, the police and leading politicians, with many apologizing for failing to hold each other to account.

"I am delighted to return to News UK," said Brooks. "It is a privilege to be back amongst the most talented journalists and executives in the business."

The return marks one of the most stunning comebacks in British public life. It comes after prosecutors said only last week that they were still looking at whether they could bring a corporate prosecution against the company.

Brooks was found not guilty of conspiring to hack into phones, conspiring to bribe public officials for stories and conspiring to pervert the course of justice following an eight-month trial which itself became front-page news.

Back in her old job, she will have to tackle the slide in sales of the Sun, Britain's biggest-selling newspaper. She will also have additional responsibilities for the acquisition of digital assets.

Revealing a wider overhaul at the business, News Corp said it had also appointed Tony Gallagher, currently deputy editor at the Daily Mail, a rival to the Murdoch titles, as editor-in-chief of the Sun.

Analysts said Brooks would have to decide whether to retain the Sun's online pay wall, after the Sun website fell far behind the Daily Mail.

Steven Barnett, professor of communications at the University of Westminster, said Brooks' return would be awkward for politicians who had previously acknowledged they had become too close to her when she was at the height of her powers.

"It's another reason for questioning the judgment of Murdoch himself, because he must surely appreciate the political embarrassment caused at the time by her and those close to her," he said.