James Murdoch bowed to pressure and resigned as BSkyB chairman yesterday as he admitted his links to the News International phone-hacking scandal threatened to damage the satellite broadcaster’s reputation.
Mr Murdoch, who relinquished his role as NI executive chairman in February, said he did not want his position to become a “lightning rod” for BSkyB as he stepped down with immediate effect following months of pressure to leave the FTSE 100 company.
The deputy chief operating officer at News Corporation, BSkyB’s controlling shareholder with a 39 per cent stake, will stay on the board as a non-executive director and will be replaced by deputy chairman Nick Ferguson.
Shareholder lobby group Pensions & Investment Research Consultants (Pirc) called for Mr Murdoch to leave the BSkyB board entirely, while his father Rupert, News Corp chief executive, released a brief statement thanking him for his “successful leadership”.
Mr Murdoch leaves the position just weeks before a Parliamentary report is published into reporting practices at the News of the World and an expected appearance alongside his father at the Leveson Inquiry into Press standards.
His departure comes despite BSkyB shareholders reappointing him at the company’s annual meeting last November. Mr Murdoch recently stepped down from the boards of auctioneer Sotheby’s and pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline.
Mr Murdoch said in a letter to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport Committee last month that he accepts his share of the blame for not uncovering phone hacking at the NotW sooner but denied he had turned a “blind eye” to allegations of criminal wrongdoing.
The DCMS committee is reportedly considering censuring him for failures to investigate fully allegations that accessing the voicemail message of celebrities and others was widespread at NI.
Media regulator Ofcom is likely to extend its inquiry into Mr Murdoch if the parliamentary committee finds against him. It is considering whether he remains a “fit and proper” person to oversee an organisation with a licence from the regulator.