James Murdoch is to stand down from his non-executive chairman’s position at BSkyB over his handling of the phone-hacking scandal that took place at The News of the World newspaper.
Whilst it has been rumored for a couple of days, Sky News – which is owned by BSkyB – all but confirmed his imminent exit earlier this afternoon.
It has been a steady downhill slope for Rupert and James Murdoch over the past year, ever since the plug was pulled on the UK’s News of the World in the wake of the phone-hacking allegations. They’ve both since faced MPs questions, whilst James Murdoch resigned as Director at the Sun and the Times’ publishing company (NGN), and he later relinquished his position as executive chairman of News International.
This latest step-down means that James Murdoch is still the Deputy COO of News Corporation, and he still sits on its board of directors, but this seemingly ends any direct link he has with News Corporation’s UK assets. Indeed, this move won’t surprise many, and the timing is pretty apt, as he’s scheduled to give evidence at the UK’s Leveson Inquiry into media practice and ethics.
BSkyB has officially announced James Murdoch’s resignation, with Nicholas Ferguson succeeding him in the role of chairman. It reads:
“The Board of British Sky Broadcasting Group plc (‘BSkyB’ or ‘the Company’) today announced that James Murdoch has stepped down as Chairman and will continue to serve in his capacity as a Non-Executive Director of the Company.
Mr Murdoch is succeeded as Chairman of BSkyB by Nicholas Ferguson, who was appointed as a Director of the Company in June 2004 and previously served as Deputy Chairman and Senior Independent Non-Executive Director. 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 Nicholas Ferguson as Senior Independent Non-Executive Director.
In a letter to the Board setting out the reasons for his resignation, Mr Murdoch said: “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.”
Mr Murdoch continued: “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.” He added: “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.”
Mr Ferguson commented: “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.”