Mystery Shrouds James Murdoch's Future at BSkyB

Everybody wants to know if BSkyB will ask James to step down as chairman Thursday

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The decision is split on whether James Murdoch will survive BSkyB's Thursday board meeting, its first since News Corp. pulled its bid to take over the cable company. Some say that Murdoch, BSkyB board chairman and deputy chief operating officer of News Corp., is too close to the scandal and could jeopardize BSkyB's ability to keep its license as the British broadcasting regulator Ofcom reviews whether the company is "fit and proper." Murdoch approved a million dollar settlement to a phone-hacking victim in 2008 and now faces allegations that he lied to Parliament. Everybody's curious what the BSkyB board will say about all of this.

The New York Times offers a somewhat pessimistic report for the young Murdoch. In their Wednesday morning coverage, the paper quotes a number of sources suggesting that the board should ask Murdoch to step down. Two of their sources of investment experts but they also talked to a former high level British official:

Paul Myners, Britain’s former government minister for financial services, said BSkyB’s 14-member board urgently needs a change because “a significant number”--four members--have been directors for more than nine years. Four others are on the News Corporation payroll.

Mr. Myners said Mr. Murdoch probably should remain on the board but not as chairman. “Most corporate problems can be traced back to poor corporate governance and this company falls short in that respect,” he said.

The Guardian reports the opposite, writing that James will remain chairman. Citing unnamed sources, they say James Murdoch secured the support of Nicolas Ferguson, BSkyB's deputy chairman, in a pivotal meeting Tuesday night. Ferguson offered his support, the paper says, which will be enough to convince the rest of the board not to sack James as chairman.

Ferguson, whose role is essentially to act as an intermediary between shareholders and the chairman, has also spoken with leading investors in the publicly listed company following News Corporation's decision to withdraw its bid for the 61% of Sky it does not already own.

The board is understood to be satisfied that there is support for the chairman, who is also News Corp deputy chief operating officer, despite the phone-hacking furore of the past three weeks.

Of course, guessing is about all newspapers can do ahead of the Thursday meeting. BSkyB board members have refused to comment on the events.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.