James Murdoch returns to Sky and fuels fresh takeover talk

James Murdoch has indicated an new takeover approach for Sky could be on the cards Credit: PA

James Murdoch's reappointment as chairman of Sky has clearly upset some of the company's shareholders.

"Inappropriate" is the view of Royal London Asset Management (RLAM).

Their worry is that if Fox - where James Murdoch is co-chief executive - were to bid again for Sky then no one will be playing hardball on price.

RLAM has a 0.27% (passive) stake. That's skin in the game but precious little of it and precious little influence.

But the point is a fair one and will concern other investors, although Martin Gilbert, who becomes Sky's deputy chairman, is the free-est of spirits and no pushover.

The last attempt the Murdochs made - back in 2011 - to buy up the 60% of Sky they don't own faltered and then failed spectacularly when the Guardian revealed that an investigator at the News of the World had hacked the phone of Milly Dowler.

At the time James Murdoch was chairman of Sky (then BSkyB) and chairman of News International (which owned the News of the World).

He was forced to stand down from both roles, although he remained on Sky's board as a non-executive director.

Will there be another bid? James Murdoch more or less answered that question last October when he said a 40% stake in Sky is "not an end state that is natural for us".

He wants complete control. The smart money is on an approach.

Are things are about to get interesting for Sky? Credit: PA

That said, the business case for a takeover looks marginal - Fox already benefits from a series of commercial arrangements between the two companies and the existing stake gives Fox the lion's share of the Sky dividend and enormous influence.

Why consolidate something you as good as control? The synergies can't be that great.

The emotional case looks more compelling.

Rupert Murdoch launched Sky Television in 1989 to widespread sneering but it has gone on to be a remarkable success.

The revolution was slow-burning and Sky still looks highly reliant on exclusive access to live football games - the eye-popping amount of money it pays for the Premier League rights tells you as much - but Sky today owns a dizzying array of other content and is a devoted programme-maker, something it rarely gets credit for.

Rupert Murdoch launched Sky, the UK's first satellite channel, in 1989 Credit: PA Archive

Sky results, out today, suggest the business is thriving.

James Murdoch has been chief executive (2003-2007) and chairman (2007-2012) and was the architect behind much of the Sky's rise.

He was the energy behind Sky's push into broadband and its tie-ups with US production companies like HBO.

He started Sky businesses in Germany and Italy, now part of the Sky group.

The success is not all his - Jeremy Darroch shares the glory - but his fingerprints are all over the business.

Sky chief executive Jeremy Darroch helped Murdoch forge the broadcaster's success Credit: PA

There would be significant resistance to a takeover, of course.

James Murdoch was heavily criticised, not least by Ofcom, during the phone-hacking scandal but he emerged vindicated and there were no corporate prosecutions.

The political pressure would be significant but bear in mind that before the phone-hacking scandal swept all before it, the government's instinct was to wave the deal through on the condition that Sky News was spun off an independent company.

Although note: Sky is a much bigger company today.

Fox is cash rich, thanks in part to the merger of Sky's European business in July 2014; Rebekah Brooks is back in charge of Rupert Murdoch's British newspaper empire; and James Murdoch has returned as chairman of Sky.

The stars look aligned. Things are about to get very interesting.