Rupert Murdoch may step down as chairman of BSkyB in favour of James

MUMBAI: The "Asian" star continues its ascent. Star chairman and CEO James Murdoch looks set to have another attachment to his title - chairman of British Sky Broadcasting Group (BSkyB).

News Corp head Rupert Murdoch is all set to relinquish his post as chairman of BSkyB to ease the way for son and now touted as heir-apparent James to take over smoothly as chief executive of the company, according to a report in the UK's Observer today.

Murdoch's 30-year-old son, thus far seen as the one who turned around Star's Asia fortunes, is being lined up to take over the reins at the pay TV company as a precursor to succeeding his father at the head of News Corp.

Media reports last week indicated that current BSkyB CEO Tony Ball was set to exit the company when his contract expires in May 2004. James was appointed to the BSkyB board in February this year and has been seen as a possible successor to Ball all along. James, who cut his teeth in the media business with Star, rose in the eyes of investors and media alike, when he helped turn the company's fortunes and took it to the top of the heap in the region in the process.

Murdoch Junior would probably be doffing more than just the symbolic cap to his team in India, which has more than anything else been responsible for catapulting News Corp's Asian operations into the safe orbit it finds itself in today.

Rupert Murdoch owns 35.4 per cent of the British pay-TV company. According to the Observer, senior executives from elsewhere within Murdoch's empire would be seconded to BSkyB to help James while he settled into the role of CEO.

While some reports have hinted at Ball's tempestous relationship with his employer leading to his imminent exit from the company, others have mentioned a desire on Ball's part to look for other options that triggered negotiations about his departure. BSkyB however, has not offered any official comment thus far.

If Ball's time as chief executive is over, it is unlikely to be the end of his association with Rupert Murdoch, who has employed him for 10 years, according to the UK's Guardian. His contract with BSkyB states that on termination of his employment he has the right to be employed by News Corp on terms "at least as beneficial to him as the terms of his employment package [with BSkyB]".

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