James Murdoch has already tried to demonstrate his independence as chief executive of British Sky Broadcasting, ahead of a showdown with shareholders at the annual meeting this week.
The newly installed Sky executive apparently angered his father and company chairman Rupert Murdoch by resigning from the board of News Corporation, the holding company for the Murdoch media empire. Mr Murdoch Jnr also pledged in a newspaper interview published over the weekend to work for all shareholders and to stand up to his father. "If we disagree about something, we will have to disagree and we will hash it out," Mr Murdoch said.
Mr Murdoch Snr put his son on the main board of News Corp in December 2000. News Corp, which ultimately owns The Times and Sunday Times, has a 35 per cent stake in Sky.
In response to the concerns of independent shareholders, worried about Sky being run increasingly in the interests of News Corp, James Murdoch resigned on 4 November. His father was said to be "highly pissed off". He wrote in a memo to other directors: "James informed me that he thought it appropriate to step down as a director of News Corp. I do not agree with [his] decision but have reluctantly agreed to go along with it."
Mr Murdoch Jnr faces a shareholder vote at the AGM this Friday. Some institutional investors, including Morley and Legal & General - Sky's biggest independent shareholder - have said that they will vote against him. However, it seems that most of the shareholder anger over the appointment of the chairman's son to the post of chief executive will be felt by Lord St John of Fawsley, Sky's senior non-executive director.
Incredibly, in the Sunday Telegraph interview, James claims he learnt of the impending vacancy at Sky only by reading about it in the press. He also provided reassurance to shareholders concerned about a new, risky, international strategy under him. "There is a lot of growth left in the UK and Ireland markets. The focus of the company is totally on that," he said.
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