James Murdoch reappointed BSkyB director

James Murdoch was reappointed as a director of BSkyB at the company’s annual general meeting today.

Provisional figures announced at the meeting in London gave him 81.24 per cent of the vote with 18.76 per cent against.

There have been calls for him to resign his role as chairman amid fears that his links to the inquiry into phone hacking at News Corporation will damage BSkyB’s reputation.

Protesters calling for Murdoch’s resignation had gathered outside the meeting, at the QEII conference centre.

Labour MPs Chris Bryant and Tom Watson also arrived, promising awkward questions.

Pressure has been continuing to mount on the son of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch over his links to the phone hacking inquiry at News Corporation, amid claims it could damage the image of BSkyB.

At the meeting, deputy chairman Nicholas Ferguson took questions about Mr Murdoch’s role, prefacing them with a strong defence of his chairmanship.

He said: “He runs an excellent Board. Discussions are open and frank, his chairing is very good. He has put in place strong governance procedures. He has a strong strategic view.”

Asked if the select committee hearings about phone hacking at the News of the World cast doubt either on Murdoch’s honesty or competence, Ferguson said: “We’ve worked with James for eight years, James is a highly competent man. As for honesty, we’ve seen nothing that makes us question his honesty.”

When Bryant asked about the hacking row, Ferguson said: “The public, the people in this room, understand that BSkyB is not News International.”

Guy Jubb, head of governance and stewardship at Standard Life Investments, said their votes would go against the re-election of Murdoch.

Jubb told the meeting: “Standard Life Investments manages over six million shares in BSkyB and we have been an investor for many years.

“I have come here today because we should like to explain to the Board and our fellow shareholders why we are opposing the re-election of James Murdoch.”

He said that in September they wrote to Ferguson to advise him they were concerned that James Murdoch remained chairman and they would like to see a new and independent chairman appointed.

They explained that the unsuccessful bid approach from News Corporation (for BSkyB) had magnified the conflicts of interest which the independent non-executive directors had to deal with and it was inappropriate that the Board was led by a representative of its largest shareholder and putative offeror.

“We pointed out that our misgivings had been heightened by the revelations of stewardship shortcomings at the News of the World, a title for which Mr Murdoch bore a measure of responsibility.

“In summary, we told Mr Ferguson that we believe that a change in Mr Murdoch’s Board responsibilities would be in the best interests of the company.

“Since we wrote our letter to Mr Ferguson in September, nothing has changed to cause us to change our view.

“Therefore, we are voting our clients’ shares against the re-election of Mr Murdoch.

“We hope that after this meeting, when the voting outcome is known, the independent directors will reflect carefully on not only the level of dissent amongst independent shareholders but also the tone of the comments that accompany their votes.”

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