James Moore: Murdoch finally jumps – but not far enough away from BSkyB
Outlook James Murdoch's King Canute act has finally come to an end. The word was yesterday being put out that the now former chairman of BSkyB was not pushed out. The decision to step down was his alone.
That, however, is just so much sophistry. He jumped out of the way before being hit by a really big wave. Whether that wave was generated by the Leveson inquiry into press standards, or by his regulators at Ofcom or perhaps even – heaven forbid – by his own shareholders is immaterial. It was surely coming.
The wonder is that it took so long.
Mr Murdoch, of course, continues to deny all knowledge of the phone-hacking scandal that continues to cash a long shadow over his father's media empire. But in that case the fundamental question for BSkyB is still this: if Mr Murdoch was unable to see what was going on as an executive in command of the family newspaper business, then how can he be trusted to oversee the corporate governance of a FTSE 100 company? The fact that they are very different businesses is immaterial.
Perhaps the waters were muddied by the limp reaction to the scandal by some of those independent shareholders. One might wonder what it would take for the likes of Scottish Widows Investment Partnership and M&G, both of whom voted in Mr Murdoch's favour at the company's November AGM, to reject a chairman's reappointment. Similar problems will crop up again and again while fund managers like them continue to shirk their responsibilities to the people who put money in their charge – and who pay their fees.
In the meantime, BSkyB is still left facing some difficult questions.
Mr Murdoch will be succeeded by the company's senior independent director, Nicholas Ferguson, who will be the first non-Murdoch family member in the role.
The company will be hoping that he will be sufficiently reassuring to get the more vocal critics among the group's independent shareholders to shut up for a while. He, as the senior independent director, is after all the person whose ears they have been bending.
However, the question mark hanging over him, and indeed the other independent directors, is why they didn't suggest, forcefully, that Mr Murdoch step aside much earlier in BSkyB's own interests. Given his connections to the business – and he once ran it rather successfully in addition to it being one of the jewels in the family's crown – it was always going to be difficult for Mr Murdoch to act on his own.
Another related problem that won't go away is that Mr Murdoch will remain a director of the company. The impression this gives is that he is being left in situ so that he can take his place at the head of the boardroom table when the fuss has all died down.
For the company's own good, that's an impression which needs to be corrected.
- 1 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 3 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 4 AirAsia flight QZ8501 missing: Plane carrying 162 passengers from Indonesia to Singapore disappears over Java Sea
- 5 Naomi Wolf reacts to Isis 'conspiracy theories' critism after she questions whether beheading videos are real
President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
Exclusive: Abusers using spyware apps to monitor partners reaches 'epidemic proportions'
ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
UK weather: Warning for more snow and ice as freezing temperatures and gales hit Britain
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk
Nigel Farage: Ukip leader named 'Briton of the year' by The Times
Millions of Britons struggling to feed themselves and facing malnourishment
iJobs Money & Business
Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...
Not specified: Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Global Equity | New Yor...
Not specified: Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation This top tiered investment...
Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...