BSkyB chair James Murdoch to quit

2012-04-03 15:37

London – James Murdoch, under fire over his handling of a phone hacking scandal that has convulsed his father Rupert’s media empire, is to step down as chairperson of pay-TV group BSkyB, its news channel reported today.

The report said Murdoch would quit after a board meeting later in the day.

Murdoch has been heavily criticised for his handling of the scandal, which rocked the British press, politicians and police last year, and he had faced repeated calls to step down from his role at Britain’s dominant pay-TV group.

Once seen as heir to his father’s company, has continued to plead his innocence ahead of a parliamentary report investigating the phone hacking scandal, which is expected to be heavily critical of him.

The 39-year-old was previously chief executive of BSkyB and was dealt a heavy blow in November when more than 40% of the company’s independent shareholders failed to back his re-election as chairperson.

Since then he has stood down from his board positions at News Corp’s British newspaper arm, and moved to the United States to take up his new role running international pay-TV.

“It was inevitable,” said media commentator Roy Greenslade, who has previously worked for Rupert Murdoch. “His position was increasingly untenable.”

A major shareholder said: “I have no particular axe to grind about James Murdoch, but if this rumour is correct then at least it would remove some uncertainty from the stock. Investors could get back to focusing on the company’s business rather than its corporate governance issues,” the UK-based investor said.

News Corp’s British newspaper arm, News International, has admitted its News of the World tabloid hacked into the phones of crime victims, war dead and celebrities to generate stories.

It has since shut the 168-year-old paper, apologised and settled numerous court cases. However in recent weeks it had faced new allegations about hacking at its pay-TV operations, which it has strenuously denied.

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