Court of St. James

BSkyB investor won't nix Murdoch scion

LONDON — In a surprise move, BSkyB investor the National Assn. of Pension Funds won’t oppose James Murdoch as the new chief executive of the U.K. satcaster.

The declaration comes a week after the Assn. of British Insurers, another BSkyB shareholder, raised concerns about Rupert Murdoch’s youngest son being parachuted in to replace outgoing chief exec Tony Ball.

Murdoch pere, chairman of the paybox, wants the job to go to James, and as 35% shareholder has a powerful say in the outcome. But the ABI worries that if James gets the top job, he might put parent company News Corp.’s interests ahead of BSkyB’s.

The NAPF, however, said it would not oppose his appointment despite the controversy surrounding the succession at the paybox. “(We are) not taking a view on the suitability of James Murdoch for the vacancy and believe his appointment as a non-independent non-executive director can be justified,” it said in a report compiled for members.

James now is expected to be installed as chief executive in time for the annual general meeting Nov. 14. But a shakeup of the board is expected with the possible departure of Norman St. John Stevas, the senior non-executive director and head of the nominations committee, which is leading the search for a new chief.

St. John Stevas was supposed to listen to shareholders’ concerns, but abruptly canceled a meeting to discuss whether James should be appointed chief exec. Rupert Murdoch recognizes St. John Stevas is not seen as independent enough and is likely to replace him to appease City critics who are angry at the way in which James was going to be named chief executive.