Exec resigns with immediate effect
The other shoe has fallen in the U.K. for James Murdoch.
BSkyB confirmed Tuesday that the embattled exec has steppped down from his post as chairman of the satcaster. He remains deputy chief operating officer and head of international at News Corp., reporting to COO Chase Carey. He will focus on steering Rupert Murdoch’s worldwide TV businesses.
James Murdoch, who will continue to serve as non-exec director of BSkyB, has faced increasing pressure in Blighty over alleged phone hacking at the now defunct News of the World tabloid during his tenure as topper of News Intl., News Corp.’s U.K. newspaper group.
His resignation further emphasizes James’ decision to cut ties with News Corp.’s U.K. operations. In February, he stepped down as executive chairman of News Intl., which he had headed for five years, following his move from London to New York.
In a statement, Rupert Murdoch and Carey praised James for his role in “propelling (BSkyB) into the market-leading position it enjoys today” and said they looked forward to the exec making “continued substantial contributions at News Corp.”
James’ exit after nearly a decade atop BSkyB comes days before a key report on phone hacking from the House of Commons’ culture, media and sport select committee — which questioned him twice about the scandal — is unveiled.
At BSkyB he will be succeeded by Nicholas Ferguson, who was appointed director of the company in June 2004 and previously served as deputy chairman and senior independent non-exec director.
Tom Mockridge, who joined the board in February 2009, has been appointed deputy chairman.
“I have been privileged to serve first as chief executive and then as chairman of this outstanding company, and I am proud of what we have achieved over this period,” James wrote in a letter to the board. “As attention continues to be paid to past events at News Intl., I am determined that the interests of BSkyB should not be undermined by matters outside the scope of this company.”
He added, “I am aware that my role as chairman could become a lightning rod for BSkyB, and I believe that my resignation will help ensure that there is no false conflation with events at a separate organization.”
BSkyB shareholders reappointed him at the company’s annual meeting in November — although 44% of independent shareholders voted against or didn’t vote for his re-election to the board.
The report from the culture, media and sport select committee at the end of the month is likely to be a critical one that will raise fresh questions about James Murdoch’s role as CEO of News Intl.
The Murdochs are also under pressure from media regulator Ofcom, which recently announced that it was ramping up its probe into whether News Corp. is a “fit and proper” company to control BSkyB.
News Corp. owns a controlling 39% of the satcaster, but the hacking scandal derailed its attempt to buy out the remaining portion last year.