Tony Gallagher lined up as next editor of the Times, say insiders

<span>Photograph: Alastair Grant/AP</span>
Photograph: Alastair Grant/AP

Tony Gallagher is being lined up as the new editor of the Times, according to sources at the newspaper, with its current boss, John Witherow, expected to leave the outlet.

Witherow, 70, has been in charge of the newspaper since 2013 but has spent much of the last year off work due to illness. During this period, Gallagher, his deputy editor, has effectively been running the Rupert Murdoch-owned title.

A formal announcement about Witherow’s departure had been expected soon, but it may be delayed due the royal funeral. He is due back from sick leave and may be given another job elsewhere in Murdoch’s News UK company.

Gallagher, 58, was editor of the Daily Telegraph between 2009 and 2014. After being sacked from that job, he worked as a chef in the restaurant Moro before a short stint as deputy editor of the Daily Mail. In 2015 he joined Murdoch’s media empire as editor of the Sun, which he led during the EU referendum as the paper campaigned enthusiastically for Brexit.

Five years later he became deputy editor of the Times, where he has long been seen as the favoured candidate to take over. If his appointment is confirmed, Gallagher will become one of the few people to have edited three national daily newspapers.

Speculation about the editorship of the Times has been widespread in recent weeks. Rumours that the former cabinet minister Michael Gove, who worked at the Times prior to becoming a Conservative MP, may return to the paper proved to be wide of the mark – despite the speculation being the talk of Westminster WhatsApp groups. Other potential candidates for the job included the Sunday Times editor, Emma Tucker, who has steered the weekend newspaper in a more socially liberal direction since she took over and said the British press had made mistakes in its coverage of Muslims.

Murdoch’s media interests in the UK include the Sun, the Times, the struggling TalkTV channel, and radio stations including Times Radio and Virgin Radio.

In recent years, Murdoch successfully persuaded the government to remove most of the restrictions on his ownership of the Times and the Sunday Times, enabling the sharing of resources between titles and the merging of teams working on whole topics such as sport. The focus of the combined operation is now on signing up new readers to its £26-a-month online subscription rather than selling print newspapers.

While traditionally the Sun was highly profitable and cross-subsidised the Times, this has flipped over the last decade. Now it is the Times that is profitable and the Sun that – waylaid by phone-hacking costs – loses substantial sums of money.

Both Gallagher and News UK declined to comment.