Shareholders' backing at Sky boosts James Murdoch

 

James Murdoch will be hoping that yesterday's Sky annual general meeting, where 95 per cent of shareholders voted to re-elect him as a director, marks the first step in his rehabilitation in Britain.

Ahead of the vote at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Westminster, he sat nervously on the podium, flanked by other directors.

This was not like last year, when there were protests and questions about the phone-hacking scandal. Then 19 per cent voted against Mr Murdoch and, once abstentions were included, almost 45 per cent of independent shareholders failed to back him.

But he still had to see if anyone would criticise him yesterday, even though he managed to defuse the tension by resigning as Sky chairman in April. At one point, he put his hands together, as if in prayer. He need not have worried, as several investors stood up to praise him. Only two spoke out against him.

One small shareholder, John Marshall, said: "The name Murdoch, I'm afraid, is toxic with a large number of investors and as long as he is on the board that will be reflected in what others think of the company."

But the chairman Nicholas Ferguson firmly disagreed and so do most investors, judging by the vote. A 5 per cent increase in quarterly profits, announced yesterday, will have helped too.

Louise Rouse, of the campaigning group Fair Pensions, said there were still doubts after Ofcom's scathing report in September about his competence at News Corporation. "Institutional shareholders should explain to the people whose money they manage why James Murdoch is a suitable director when he wasn't last year," she said.

But Mr Murdoch left knowing that the City is prepared to forgive him. He will be happy.

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