James Murdoch Frontrunner for Top Job at BSkyB

18 September 2003

It’s official! As predicted [WAMN: 16-Sep-03], James Murdoch (30) is set to be the new ceo at News Corporation-controlled UK satellite broadcaster BSkyB.

Well, not official actually - but as near official as makes no odds, given that the story appeared Wednesday in NewsCorp’s UK broadsheet, The Times. Few believe it would have run without the chairman’s say-so.

According to the report, BSkyB’s eight independent directors were invited to support Murdoch minor’s appointment to replace incumbent Tony Ball, probably next May. The octet is said to be “sympathetic”. So unless Sky goes Chicken-Licken and falls in, fait accompli!

But James will have rather more of struggle to convince a cynical marketplace that he won the job on merit. His appointment continues the family tradition of parental preference, Rupert himself being the son of an Australian newspaper tycoon.

James’ main qualification for running the UK’s eighteenth largest company is a three year stint as chief executive of NewsCorp’s lossmaking Asian satellite broadcaster Star.

Comments David Cumming, investment director of insurance giant Standard Life: “The market will be naturally cautious about the appointment of James Murdoch. It will be up to him to allay the initial scepticism.”

The list of empathetic independent BSkyB directors who unanimously acquiesced to the appointment, makes interesting reading. In alpha order they are:

Philip Bowman chief executive of Allied Domecq.

David Evans president and chief executive officer of Crown Media Holdings Inc.

Allan Leighton, part-time chairman of the Royal Mail and prolific non-executive company director.

Jacques Nasser, senior partner of One Equity Partners, the private equity business of Bank One Corporation. Also chairman of Polaroid Corporation and former president/ceo of Ford Motor Company for three years.

Gail Rebuck chairman and chief executive of Bertelsmann-owned The Random House Group, the UK’s largest trade publishing company.

Lord St John of Fawsley, superannuated Tory politician, media pundit and non-executive director of myriad companies.

John Thornton, a director of the Ford Motor Company, Intel Corporation and the Pacific Century Group. Former president of Goldman Sachs Group.

• Lord Richard Wilson of Dinton, Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge (a desirable sinecure associated with political reward), former secretary to the Blair Cabinet and head of the UK Home Civil Service.

Data sourced from: Times Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff