LONDON — BSkyB topper James Murdoch has claimed credit for the Nov. 17 raid on Blighty’s commercial giant ITV, which saw the paybox shell out more than $1 billion for a 17.9% stake in the terrestrial web.
There was extensive speculation that Rupert Murdoch, chair of BSkyB, was behind the stock swoop, but his younger son said the initiative was down to him and BSkyB’s finance director Jeremy Darroch.
“We’d been looking at ITV for a long time, but we really started thinking about it a couple of weeks ago when my (chief finance officer) and I were on a flight to Spain for an investor conference,” Murdoch said in an interview broadcast by BBC Radio Five Live on Monday. “We consulted the board two days after that, and the day after that we did the deal.
“The reason we did it was very straightforward, that we see a lot of long-term value in ITV. We think it’s a business that has been through some tough times, and we saw real value in the business, and it needed a bit of breathing room to get leadership in place and get it right.”
The BSkyB CEO welcomed last week’s appointment of Michael Grade as ITV’s executive chairman. Grade’s defection from the BBC, where he was chairman, shocked the industry.
“I think all shareholders at ITV are now very keen to see him get on board, and see his ideas for growth,” Murdoch said.
“Every shareholder in ITV is interested in exactly what he’s going to say when he’s got his feet under the desk.”