BSkyB chief Ball 'preparing to leave Murdoch's empire'

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The Independent Online

Speculation is growing that Tony Ball, chief executive of BSkyB, is preparing to leave the satellite television company controlled by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

It is thought that Mr Murdoch's younger son, James Murdoch, who runs News Corp's Star TV business in Asia, may succeed Mr Ball.

Rupert Murdoch is chairman of Sky and News Corp has a 35 per cent stake in the company. There have been stories of tension between Mr Ball and Mr Murdoch, mostly recently over Sky News, which is highly rated in this country but Mr Murdoch has heaped praised on its US counterpart, Fox News, also owned by News Corp, which is known for its jingoistic and partisan coverage.

Mr Ball's contract expires in June next year, but his departure is likely to come sooner. He will be leaving the company, after four years at the helm, at a high point in its history. Sky has just returned to profit after a massive investment in digital technology and is on target to hit 7 million subscribers by the end of this year.

He has been richly rewarded for his performance, earning over £20m in salary, bonuses and shares. Mr Ball has also been a cheerleader for the familiar Murdoch theme of knocking the BBC.