Fury among shareholders as Murdoch's son is handed the top job at BSkyB

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The Murdoch dynasty cemented its hold over BSkyB yesterday with the appointment of James Murdoch as the satellite television company's chief executive.

The news immediately put the company on a collision course with shareholder groups, who fear that their interests will be ignored as the Murdoch clan and its News Corporation, which owns over a third of Sky, pursue their goals.

Rupert Murdoch is Sky's chairman and with his 30-year-old son James as chief executive, there appears to be little to check the power of the Murdochs at the company.

Other shareholders fear that Sky's resources may be deployed to the benefit of other Murdoch companies or that Sky, a UK-only business, will now be subsumed into a global empire. He may revive his plan to link his various satellite television businesses across the world. A clash between shareholders and the Murdochs now looks set for 14 November, at Sky's annual general meeting in London, when shareholders will get to vote on James Murdoch.

Peter Montagnon, of the Association of British Insurers, one of the most powerful shareholder groups, said that a father and son team "is simply not something we can now live with".

Shareholders have questioned whether the process of selecting a new chief executive at Sky was an open one, given that Rupert Murdoch declared early on that he thought his son was the "best man" for the job. Last night the rest of the Sky board duly agreed, appointing James Murdoch to the vacant chief executive post.

However, with News Corp's 35 per cent shareholding in Sky and a number of other investors that will support it, it will be very difficult for independent shareholders to mount the strength of campaign at Sky that last month saw the ousting of Carlton's chairman, Michael Green.

Despite his youth, James Murdoch does have experience in running a pay-television business. He is currently chief executive of News Corp's Star TV operation in Asia.

Murdoch senior has declared that he has no intention of retiring but James and his older brother Lachlan are clearly vying to prove themselves to their father.

While James has focused on television interests, Lachlan has been set to work on News Corp's newspaper holdings.

There is speculation that when Rupert Murdoch steps down, his empire will be divided between James focusing on television and Lachlan on newspapers, including The Times and the Sun in the UK.

Business, page 19