Murdoch Minor Squares Up to Pop

10 November 2003

Rupert Murdoch and his and youngest son James, recently appointed chief executive of BSkyB, have reportedly fallen out over the latter's decision to resign from the board of News Corporation ..

It is uncertain whether the move, purportedly to demonstrate Sky's independence from its parent, is a genuine familial spat or a carefully staged ploy to impress dissident BSkyB shareholders. But the NewsCorp chairman is said by NewsCorp sources to be "highly pissed off" at his son's resignation.

In a memo to other NewsCorp directors, Murdoch senior wrote: "James informed me that he thought it appropriate to step down as a director of NewsCorp. I do not agree with [his] decision but have reluctantly agreed to go along with it."

Some observers believe the resignation could be a stratagem designed to soften the expected vote by institutional shareholders against James' appointment at BSkyB's annual meeting this Friday

Meantime, Murdoch minor insisted in a newspaper interview this weekend, he would stand up to his redoubtable dad: "If we disagree about something, we will have to disagree and we will hash it out," he said - then undermined his credibility by claiming that the first he knew of the chief executive vacancy at Sky was when he read about it in the press.

• In a separate move this weekend, James Murdoch also let it be known that a major priority is to seek a regrading of BSkyB by credit-rating agencies such as S&P and Moody's from 'stable' to 'invest'. If agreed, this could lead to a resumption of dividend payments to shareholders - an act that would pour emollient oil on the expected stormy waters at Friday's AGM.

• Meantime, Star Group, the Murdoch dynasty's Asian satellite TV giant, has appointed the company's executive vice president for distribution and business development Michelle Guthrie to fill the ceo vacuum created by James when he moved into the BSkyB job.

Data sourced from multiple origins; additional content by WARC staff