British Unions Wade Into BSkyB Succession Row

31 October 2003

Britain's Trades Union Congress is calling on shareholders in UK satellite firm BSkyB to register their disapproval of James Murdoch as a potential ceo.

The TUC wants investors to vote against Murdoch – the 30-year-old son of Rupert – when he stands for re-election as a non-executive director at BSkyB's annual general meeting next month.

The satellite group – 35%-owned by News Corporation – is seeking a new ceo after the departure of Tony Ball. Murdoch senior, BSkyB's chairman, was keen to install his son in the role, but after a shareholder outcry the firm launched a formal recruitment process [WAMN: 30-Sep-03]. However, many fear the result of this procedure is a foregone conclusion.

James Murdoch is already an independent director at BSkyB, having joined the board in February. Shareholders will be asked to approve this appointment at the AGM on November 14.

The TUC – some of whose members hold shares in BSkyB via pension funds – wants stockholders to use the vote to send a "strong signal" to the firm that they disapprove of Murdoch junior as a potential ceo.

"Investors should think very carefully about the kind of messages that the succession process at BSkyB has already sent about the way companies are run, and the impression that the appointment of the chairman's son as chief executive would generate," declared TUC general secretary Brendan Barber.

"We do not consider James Murdoch to be an independent non-executive director in any case and have told trustees that they may wish to consider the vote on his re-election as an outlet for concerns about the selection process."

The younger Murdoch is one of ten candidates interviewed this week for the ceo position. The nominations committee is yet to deliver its recommendations to the board.

Data sourced from: multiple sources; additional content by WARC staff