BSkyB Investors Pump Pecs in Readiness for Murdoch Battle

20 October 2003

That old conundrum - what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? - may finally be answered within the next few days.

The irresistible force is Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corporation and its triumphant UK satellite TV unit BSkyB, seemingly determined to shoehorn his youngest son James into the chief executive's seat recently vacated by Tony Ball.

The immovable object comprises a powerful group of institutional investors in BSkyB. It is said to include such world class muscle as Barclays Global Investors, Legal & General, Standard Life and Deutsche Asset Management.

A line drawn in the sand now signifies their united opposition to familial patronage and they demand James' name be withdrawn from the BSkyB shortlist. "We were originally prepared to be persuaded that he is the best man for the job," explained one of the investors. "We are now persuaded it would be wrong for him to get it."

The dissidents are not only concerned at Murdoch minor's unproven abilities and relative lack of experience: "It is difficult to believe that James Murdoch will be able to incentivise and motivate the BSkyB team, because he will be seen as having his primary loyalty to his father.

"When the process started," said another senior fund manager, "the City said 'we've got to have the best person we can get and if that happened to be James, so be it'. Now our view is that James is not the best person."

Nor were the rebels impressed by the chairman's remarks at last week's annual meeting of News Corporation when Murdoch paterfamilias implied that neither James nor elder son Lachlan, were ready to succeed him at NewsCorp. "If he's not ready for News Corp, why is he ready for BSkyB?" asked a disgruntled shareholder.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff