James Murdoch quits as BSkyB chairman

James Murdoch is to step down as BSkyB chairman. Murdoch is expected to be replaced by current deputy chairman Nicholas Ferguson.

Murdoch’s decision to step down follows a wave of criticism directed at him in the wake of the News International phone hacking scandal and comes days before a report on hacking from the UK House of Commons culture, media and sport select committee.

Murdoch, who has been chairman of the UK pay TV broadcaster since 2003, is expected to remain on the board for the time being. His decision to step down follows his resignation as chairman on News Corp’s newspaper publishing arm News International in February. Murdoch also stepped down from the board of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline in January. He also stepped down from the board of auction house Sotheby’s in March.

Tom Mockridge, who joined the Board in February 2009, has been appointed as deputy chairman. Andrew Higginson, who has been a director of BSkyB since September 2004, succeeds Ferguson as senior Independent non-executive director.

“I have been privileged to serve first as chief executive and then as chairman of this outstanding company and I am proud of what we have achieved over this period,” said Murdoch. “As attention continues to be paid to past events at News International, I am determined that the interests of BSkyB should not be undermined by matters outside the scope of this company. I am aware that my role as chairman could become a lightning rod for BSkyB and I believe that my resignation will help to ensure that there is no false conflation with events at a separate organisation.”

Commenting on Murdoch’s departure, Ferguson said: “On behalf of the entire board, I would like to thank James Murdoch for the outstanding contribution he has made both as CEO and chairman of BSkyB. With his vision, drive and strategic insight, the company has performed exceptionally and continues to transform itself to take advantage of a broader growth opportunity in home entertainment and communications. The board’s support for James and belief in his integrity remain strong. We understand his decision to step aside at this time and we both welcome and look forward to his continued contribution as a non-executive director. The entire board and management remain fully focused on maintaining BSkyB’s strong progress, delivering an outstanding service for customers and creating value for all shareholders.”

News Corp chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch and president and chief operating officer Chase Cary also issued a statement praising the younger Murdoch’s contribution.

“We are grateful for James Murdoch’s successful leadership of BSkyB.  He has played a major role in propelling the company into the market-leading position it enjoys today – and in the process has been instrumental in creating substantial value for News Corporation shareholders.  We look forward to BSkyB’s continued growth under the leadership of Nicholas Ferguson and Jeremy Darroch and to James’ continued substantial contributions at News Corporation,” the pair said.

Tags: BSkyB, UK