Jury still out on Murdoch as Sky chair

David Hellier
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DIRECTORS at BSkyB are likely to study James Murdoch’s performance at the culture select committee carefully next Tuesday before deciding whether to make any moves to unseat him as current chairman of the satellite broadcaster.

Legally speaking, James Murdoch appears fairly secure in his position as he would expect to command the support of the controlling shareholders, News Corp.

But a source close to the board said last night that things were changing so quickly that he could not rule out a challenge to the chairman at the group’s next board meeting on Thursday week.

“It’s obvious that having a Murdoch as chairman is not helpful at the moment because of all the news surrounding the phone hacking scandal although there has been no impact so far on the business.”

The source also said that the board directors would want to wait and see what lobbying they got from large investors on the question of James Murdoch’s position.

One shareholder lobbying group Pensions and Investment Research Consultants (Pirc) has already called for James Murdoch’s ousting, saying that the company needed a chairman free from connections to the embattled News Corporation.

However, so far this dissent has not spread to some of the larger shareholders.

One shareholder, Crispin Odey of Odey Asset Management, threw his support behind the current chairman yesterday.

“James is the man who turned the company from a utility into a technology company. Now we are about to harvest that value,” he told City A.M.

Sky’s board includes a number of independent directors including former Royal Mail boss Allan Leighton, Nicholas Ferguson and Random House’s chairman and chief executive Dame Gail Rebuck.