James Murdoch gets ‘unanimous support’ of BSkyB board
LONDON — The board of BSkyB gave chairman James Murdoch its “unanimous support” on Thursday, a source close to the British satellite broadcaster said, despite the furore over the phone-hacking scandal.
The 38-year-old son and heir apparent of News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch had faced calls from some shareholders to resign over the crisis surrounding alleged wrongdoing at his father’s now defunct News of the World newspaper.
“The role of the chairman was discussed at some length today and ultimately James Murdoch received the unanimous support of the board,” the source told AFP after a BSkyB board meeting.
“James Murdoch will be remaining as chairman of BSkyB. That will be confirmed in our results tomorrow morning.”
BSkyB is set to announce Friday an annual operating profit of £1.0 billion (1.13 billion euros, $1.63 billion) for the 12 months to the end of June, according to analysts’ consensus forecast.
The scandal has shut down News of the World, forced News Corp. to ditch a bid for full control of BSkyB and compelled James and Rupert Murdoch to face questions from a British parliamentary committee.
James came under further pressure last week when when two former News of the World executives challenged his testimony about what he knew and when of the extent of phone-hacking.
Lawmaker Tom Watson, who referred his evidence to the police, told Sky News television on Thursday that the media committee would discuss whether it should recall James Murdoch for fresh questioning.
James holds the position at BSkyB in addition to his position as number three at News Corp. and head of its European and Asian activities, where he is also chairman of its British newspaper arm News International.
Last year News Corp. announced plans to add to the 39 percent of shares it owns in BSkyB, purchasing the remaining stock for £7.8 billion, despite opposition from media rivals on competition grounds.
BSkyB this year reached its target of 10 million household subscribers, who pay monthly subscriptions to watch live English Premier League football and blockbuster films in high definition, and to use Internet and phone services.
Despite BSkyB rejecting the 700-pence-per-share offer as too low and News Corp. facing opposition over the deal from media rivals on competition grounds, the Murdochs had been intent on capturing full control of the broadcaster.
But News Corp. dropped the offer on July 14 as lawmakers were about to pass a rare cross-party motion calling on Rupert Murdoch to do so amid the hacking scandal.
At around the same time as news of the board’s decision broke on Thursday, the mother of a murdered girl on whose behalf the News of the World had campaigned said she may have targeted by a private investigator working for the paper.
Sara Payne, whose eight-year-old daughter Sarah Payne was killed by a paedophile in 2000, was “absolutely devastated” after police told her that her voicemail might have been hacked by the paper.