Opposition among investors grows

LONDON — Opposition is growing to James Murdoch’s chairmanship of U.K. paybox BSkyB ahead of the company’s AGM on Tuesday.

Institutional investor Legal & General, which owns 2.9% of the satcaster, is planning to vote against Murdoch’s re-election, according to the Guardian newspaper Monday.

L&G supported his chairmanship a year ago, but has reportedly changed its view on the suitability of Murdoch to lead the board following the collapse of News Corp.’s attempt to own BSkyB outright.

The deal crumbled in July due to a public outcry when it emerged that News Corp.-owned U.K. tabloid The News of the World had listened to messages on a cell-phone belonging to murdered British schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

Other investors expected to vote against Murdoch’s re-election include financial group Aviva, British Airways Pensions Investment and the Co-operative Asset Management.

Lobby group Pensions & Investment Research Consultants has urged stockholders not to re-elect Murdoch.

In a statement Pirc said: “Mr. Murdoch’s involvement in the phone-hacking inquiry increases the risk that the company’s public standing image overall will be damaged.”

Three U.S.-based investors have already cast their votes against Murdoch.

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System (Calstrs), the Florida State Board of Administration, and the Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS) have all voted against Murdoch’s re-election.

Calstrs has voted against all the directors on the BSkyB board. Calstrs was among the investors to vote against the re-election of James Murdoch to the board of News Corp. at last month’s AGM in Los Angeles.

CBIS had led an abortive campaign for Rupert Murdoch to be forced to stand down as chairman and chief executive of News Corp.

Murdoch, who is News Corp.’s deputy COO, is expected to survive the vote.

This is because of the backing by News Corp., which owns 39% of the company, and other stockholders including Capital Research Global Investors.

Last week it emerged that in September Murdoch resigned as director of News Group Newspapers, publisher of U.K. titles The Sun and The Times.

Earlier this month, in a second grilling by British pols he “disputed vigorously” claims by former News of the World editor Colin Myler and ex-legal manager Tom Crone that they told him about an email indicating that phone-hacking at the tabloid was widespread.

Nick Ferguson, BSkyB’s deputy chairman, has publicly given his backing to Murdoch.

In a letter to investors he said that Murdoch had “done a first-class job” as chairman.

Commentators have also praised Murdoch’s achievements when he was BSkyB’s CEO from 2003-2007.

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