Rupert Murdoch has stirred fresh speculation about his eventual successor as head of News Corporation after hinting that daughter Elisabeth would one day rejoin his empire.

Elisabeth, 35, left her father's business in 2000 when she quit her job at UK satellite operator BSkyB -- in which NewsCorp holds a controlling stake -- to set up television production company Shine. However, Murdoch senior believes she will ultimately return to the family fold.

"She is a very, very hard-working and intelligent person, and she just loves the business," he told the New York Times. "She will probably sell [Shine] for a bloody fortune to someone. And then she will come knocking on the door, and she will be very welcome."

Despite growing unease among some investors about nepotism within NewsCorp, Murdoch stressed that he wants his offspring to take over once he decides to call it a day. His sons Lachlan (32) and James (30) are both in senior NewsCorp positions: the former as deputy chief operating officer of the group, with responsibility for its US television studios and Australian businesses; the latter as newly appointed chief executive of BSkyB.

Speculation on which scion will eventually take the top job has focused on these two sons. Lachlan was for a long time tipped as the most likely heir, though James' recent rise to prominence has led to rumours he could take over. And talk of Elisabeth's return could see a third candidate emerge.

However, papa Murdoch insists he wants to avoid discussing his succession. "The more people write about it and the more people in the company read about it, it just breeds politics. People say, 'I want to be on the James wagon' or 'the Lachlan wagon,' and it is just terribly self-destructive, even of their relationship, if that happens."

Perhaps to keep the peace, he added that some form of power-sharing set-up may be preferable, citing the Newhouse brothers who jointly run a media business that includes magazine giant Condé Nast.

Needless to say, Murdoch senior has no intention of stepping down just yet. "If I go under a bus or my health fails, that is something that the board is going to want to talk about," he continued. "But I look after my health pretty well, and I intend to be the active driver of the company for a long time yet, probably to the frustration of all my relatives."

Data sourced from: multiple sources; additional content by WARC staff