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James Murdoch quits role at BSkyB

James Murdoch has bowed to pressure and resigned as BSkyB chairman after he admitted his links to the News International phone-hacking scandal threatened to damage the satellite broadcaster's reputation.

Mr Murdoch, who relinquished his role as NI executive chairman in February, said he did not want his position to become a "lightning rod" for BSkyB as he stepped down with immediate effect following months of pressure to leave the FTSE 100 company.

The deputy chief operating officer at News Corporation, BSkyB's controlling shareholder with a 39% stake, will stay on the board as a non-executive director and will be replaced by deputy chairman Nick Ferguson.

Shareholder lobby group Pensions & Investment Research Consultants (Pirc) called for Mr Murdoch to leave the BSkyB board entirely, while his father Rupert, News Corp chief executive, released a brief statement thanking him for his "successful leadership".

Mr Murdoch leaves the position just weeks before a Parliamentary report is published into reporting practices at the News of the World and an expected appearance alongside his father at the Leveson Inquiry.

His departure comes despite receiving backing from BSkyB shareholders, who reappointed him at the company's annual general meeting last November. Mr Murdoch recently stepped down from the boards of auctioneer Sotheby's and pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline.

In a letter outlining his resignation, Mr Murdoch, who was appointed BSkyB chairman in December 2007, said: "I am aware that my role as chairman could become a lightning rod for BSkyB and I believe that my resignation will help to ensure that there is no false conflation with events at a separate organisation."

Tom Mockridge, News International chief executive, which publishes The Times, the Sunday Times and the Sun, as well as the NotW before it was shut down, will replace Mr Ferguson as deputy chairman.

Alan MacDougall, managing director of lobby group Pirc, which urged shareholders to oppose Mr Murdoch's re-election as chairman, said the "decision was inevitable" and called for his complete removal.

He said: "In reality, the company should have appointed an independent chair last summer, to create a clear separation between the management of the business and the scandal at News Corp. Failure to act more quickly has resulted in self-inflicted reputational damage."

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