Inside Move: Rough air for clouded Sky

Investors groups dig in vs. Murdoch elevation

BSkyB is facing a shareholder revolt at its annual general meeting Nov. 14, when Blighty’s satcaster is set to announce the replacement for outgoing chief exec Tony Ball.

Rupert Murdoch, chairman of the paybox, wants the job to go to his son James Murdoch, and as 35% shareholder has a powerful say in the outcome.

But investors such as the Assn. of British Insurers, whose members make up a fifth of the stock market, worry that if James gets the top job he might put News Corp.’s interests ahead of BSkyB’s.

They fear Murdoch senior might want to plow the satcaster’s profits into other projects rather than pay back shareholders.

While it cannot explicitly guide its members how to vote, the ABI is threatening a severe “red top” warning about corporate governance issues ahead of the meeting.

It’s also raising alarm bells about the re-election of Norman Francis, the senior non-executive director and head of the nominations committee, which is leading the search for a new chief.

He’s supposed to listen to shareholders’ concerns, but abruptly canceled a meeting to discuss whether James should be appointed chief exec.

He has yet to reschedule the meeting.

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