Moves are afoot, again, to remove James Murdoch from the board of European pay TV operator Sky, which was recently renamed following the merger of the U.K.’s BSkyB, Germany’s Sky Deutschland and Italy’s Sky Italia.
A group of institutional investors, the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum, has urged fellow shareholders to vote against Murdoch’s re-election to the board of Sky (formerly known as BSkyB) at the company’s annual general meeting on Nov. 21 in London, according to a statement issued by the group.
The group’s members manage about £150 billion ($235 billion) in assets, including about 2% of Sky’s stock, according to the Financial Times, which broke the story.
Murdoch has been on the Sky board since 2003, and was formerly its chief executive and then its chairman. He now serves on the board as a non-executive director. He is also co-chief operating officer and a director at 21st Century Fox, which owns a 39% stake in Sky.
The group expressed their “concerns” over Murdoch’s suitability as director due to his handling of the phone-hacking scandal at newspapers owned by News Corp, where Murdoch was an executive. It also points to a conflict of interest due to Murdoch’s role at Fox.
Murdoch was chairman of News Corp’s U.K. publishing arm News International from December 2007 to February 2012. Over that period he had to handle revelations of phone hacking by the News of the World staff, which had taken place prior to his appointment. The publisher of the News of the World was News Group Newspapers, part of News International.
In a statement published Wednesday, LAPFF chair Kieran Quinn alleged that Murdoch’s “ability to respond appropriately to a governance crisis at BSkyB is in doubt given the scandalous events at News Group Newspapers and the subsequent views of (U.K. media regulator) Ofcom.”
Quinn called for greater separation between Fox and Sky, and an increase in the number of independent directors on the Sky board. Murdoch led negotiations for Fox when Sky bought Fox’s stakes in Sky Italia and Sky Deutschland for £6.9 billion ($10.8 billion) in a deal completed this month.
“Over the longer term, the Forum would like to ensure there is a genuine ‘arm’s length’ relationship between Sky and 21st Century Fox, through a further strengthening of the independent representation on the board,” Quinn said.
Sky told the FT: “James Murdoch has always acted with integrity and competence in his time at Sky. He continues to make a major contribution to the company.”
Last year, Murdoch was reappointed as a director of BSkyB with the support of 96% of shareholders at the company’s AGM.