Barraclough joins News International exodus

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News International's finance director, Stephen Barraclough, is leaving the Times and Sunday Times publisher at the end of next month.

He is the seventh director to resign in the past year. His departure leaves News International, which is controlled by Rupert Murdoch's Australia- based News Corporation, with only four executive directors.

However, Gus Fischer, News International's chief executive, said a replacement for Mr Barraclough, who is moving to New York to join EMI Music as chief financial officer, would be announced shortly.

Mr Fischer said the company was very sorry to see Mr Barraclough leave.

'In the past three years - during which time News International has considerably strengthened its balance sheet - Stephen has done an outstanding job of restructuring our financial operations and introducing more sophisticated planning and control procedures,' he said.

His departure means that News International's board will be reduced to seven directors from 14 a year ago. It also leaves the company without a finance director on the eve of the flotation of British Sky Broadcasting, in which it has a 50 per cent stake.

BSkyB is expected to float before Christmas. Analysts estimate the satellite broadcaster could be worth pounds 5bn.

News International is expected to cut its stake to 40 per cent. Together with repayment of debt owed to BSkyB shareholders, which is expected to be refinanced, it could realise up to pounds 1bn from the flotation.

A year ago News International had 13 executive directors and one non-executive, Lord Catto, president of Morgan Grenfell.

Since then, six directors have resigned while Andrew Knight, former chairman, and Barbara Thomas, both executive directors until July, have become non-executives.

News International's remaining four executive directors include Mr Murdoch, the company's chairman. Both Mr Murdoch and Mr Fisher sit on the News Corporation board.

John Dux, an Australian who runs the newspaper operation, and Peter Stehrenberger, a Swiss national who acts as company secretary, are also executive directors.