CEO of British Sky Broadcasting
Darroch stepped into big shoes when he was promoted three years ago from CFO to CEO of British Sky Broadcasting. He took over from James Murdoch, whose father Rupert’s News Corp owns 39% of the satcaster. Darroch is sometimes described as the softer face of Sky, lacking the trademark aggression of typical Murdoch execs, but the pace of dealmaking under his leadership has never slackened. The satcaster is ferociously committed to maintaining its dominant position in the U.K. pay-TV market, in the face of threats from rivals and regulators.
KEY DEALS: The $250 million purchase of the Living TV group of channels from Virgin Media, a five-year, $230 million output deal with HBO, a drive into high-def and a push into original entertainment have strengthened the satcaster’s programming. Darroch’s biggest challenge is to handle News Corp’s $11.5 billion offer for the 61% stake it doesn’t already own. The board is holding out for over $13 billion, but EU regulators may yet block the takeover bid anyway.
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CEO of Virgin Media Group
Kiwi accountant Berkett became CEO of U.K. cabler Virgin Media in 2008 after playing a key role in the merger of NTL (where he was COO) and Telewest, and their subsequent acquisition of the Virgin cellphone network. The group’s broadband network covers half the U.K.; it offers mobile and fixed-line phones, an on-demand TV service, and owns half of the UKTV channels.
KEY DEALS: After a year of negotiation, the sale of the Living TV channels to old enemy BSkyB for $250 million finally guaranteed Virgin’s cable network the long-term access it needs to Sky’s premium content. Burkett has stabilized the company following the complicated NTL/Telewest merger and the rebranding as Virgin. In April, he completed a three-year, $6 billion program of debt restructuring. Virgin now reaches 3.7 million digital TV subs and 4.2 million broadband homes.
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