BSkyB to announce CEO today, James Murdoch set to take reins

LONDON: Over a month of speculation on the appointment of the next CEO of British pay television operator BskyB looks likely to come to an end today.

The company is scheduled to announce its decision today and BSkyB chairman Rupert Murdoch appears likely to get his way and have his son James take over the reins. Previous CEO Tony Ball stepped down in September.

A BSkyB board meeting is to be held at 2 pm GMT today after which the official announcement of Ball's replacement will reportedly be made.

Rupert Murdoch last month publicly backed his son as the best candidate to take over from Tony Ball, who resigned in September. Murdoch Jr. is currently a member of BSkyB's board. UK investors were concerned that his inexperience might hinder the company's growth.

James Murdoch is presently CEO of News Corp's Asian arm the Star Group. News Corp owns a 35.4 per cent stake in the pay TV operator and Murdoch senior already serves as BSkyB's chairman while James is a director on the company board.

Only the BSkyB's eight independent non-executive directors would be allowed to vote on who becomes the new chief executive, Britain's Sunday Telegraph said. Rupert Murdoch and four other non-executive directors, who also work for News Corp, will not be able to vote.

BSkyB holds its annual general meeting in Britain on 14 November and it has been Rupert Murdoch's stated desire to see James in the driver's seat before that.

BSkyB is now on the brink of its next challenge as a maturing company. Reports indicate that the new appointment follows Murdoch's tactics of changing leaders when a company reaches a new stage of development.

But the BSkyB CEO tale is not expected to all go Murdoch's way. The Independent pointed to mounting speculation that Rupert Murdoch might sacrifice his own position as chairman to assuage angry shareholders and keep the City on side.

Whether Murdoch will step down will be known soon enough. One person who will almost certainly have to go is is Lord St John, the former Conservative minister who is up for re-election.

According to The Independent , a powerful shareholder group, the National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) is convinced that after 12 years on the Sky board, Lord St John cannot be considered independent. The newspapre quotes the NAPF as saying it "would have expected such a fundamentally important task (as filling the chief executive job) to be led by a director whose independence was not open to question."

In its report on the company, the NAPF also urged BSkyB to appoint new independent non-executive directors and recommended that shareholders also vote against the company's remuneration report at the 14 November AGM. 

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