James Murdoch has relinquished his position as chairman of BSkyB saying that he could become a lightning rod for BSkyB amid the phonehacking scandal still surrounding News Corp’s UK newspaper interests. The new chairman will be Nicholas Ferguson, who has been deputy chairman since June 2010, and joined the BSkyB board in June 2004.
Ferguson is chairman of the private equity group SVG Capital and was formerly chairman of Schroder Ventures. He is also chairman of the Courtauld Institute of Art and the Institute of Philanthropy.
Tom Mockridge, the former Sky Italia CEO who is now chief executive of News International, has been appointed as deputy chairman. Andrew Higginson, who has been a director of BSkyB since September 2004, succeeds Ferguson as senior independent non-executive director.
In a statement Murdoch, who is understood to have stepped down of his own accord, said he was proud of his achievements at the company. “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.” Murdoch will continue on the board as a non-executive director.
Following the announcement Ferguson reiterated the board’s support for Murdoch and said belief in his integrity remained 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.”
In March it emerged that the media regulator Ofcom had appointed a team to more closely monitor whether BSkyB should maintain its status as being fit and proper to hold a broadcast licence. Although News Corp holds only 39.1% of BSkyB, Murdoch’s chairmanship was said to be a major concern, given his role as chairman of newspaper group News International. Murdoch stood down as chairman of News International on February 29.
Murdoch has previously resigned from the boards of auctioneer Sotheby’s and pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline.
News International has been embroiled in a series of claims over phonehacking and payment to public officials.