BSkyB non-execs make last effort to stop Murdoch Jnr

Independent directors at satellite broadcaster BSkyB are preparing to face down media mogul Rupert Murdoch over plans to install his son, James, as its chief executive.

The directors believe the appointment would go against corporate governance best practices and give Mr Murdoch, the chairman, unprecedented power over the board. His News Corporation empire is already the largest shareholder in BSkyB with a 35.4 per cent stake.

One insider, who is close to one of the independent directors, said: "There's a battle going on."

James Murdoch, 30, is the frontrunner to replace Tony Ball. The decision was due to be announced at BSkyB's annual general meeting on 14 November, but the nominations committee is now expected to announce its recommendation tomorrow at a special board meeting.

Lord St John of Fawsley heads the committee. His independence has been questioned as he has been a BSkyB director since 1991.

Said the insider: "Lord St John is the wrong man for the job. It's up to the senior non-executive to sort this but [he] is extremely feeble."

If the independent directors are overruled and James Murdoch is made chief executive, it would cause a backlash from investors. Said one: "We want somebody who is strong and independent [as chief executive] so BSkyB can act in the interests of all its shareholders, not just News Corp."

One solution would be for Rupert Murdoch to step down as chairman but he is thought to be unwilling to relinquish the post. Allan Leighton, the chairman of the Post Office and a non-executive director of BSkyB, has been suggested as a possible chairman.

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