If James Murdoch thought the scrutiny of
being CEO of BSkyB was hard to handle, he’d better get ready for even
more intense attention over the question of his brother’s resignation
and the prospect of him eventually succeeding his father at the helm of
News Corp.

Just
five days after Lachlan’s resignation, James had to front analysts and
media in separate briefings about BSkyB’s full year profit result in London last
night. Check out the profit announcement and scroll down this link to check out a one-year share price graph.

The lad wisely refused to add to the speculation with the following lines:

“I don’t want to be presumptuous because I am here at the board’s
discretion, but my hope and intention is to be here [at Sky] for the long term,”
he said. ” I’m here, you’re stuck with me.”

“I’m not going to get into commenting or speculating. I’m going to keep my head
down and run the business as best I can… I am engaged in the
business and am entirely focused on the task in hand.”

The assembled hacks tried all the usual tactics such as asking when
his dad would retire or whether he saw himself working directly for
News Corp again in the long term. Dad would have been impressed with
the proverbial straight bat that was played.

However, both BSkyB and James are demonstrating some independence
from News Corp. In November 2003 when James was controversially
parachuted into the post, he resigned from the News Corp board, despite
his father’s objections, to focus fully on BSkyB. Last night, the company
revealed an agreement that News Corp would not lift its stake above
37.5% as part of a plan to buy back up to 5% of the shares on issue.
Since when has a parent company increasing its stake been seen as a bad
thing?

You can see and listen to part of his results presentation here. BSkyB shares dipped 7p to 544p in response to the 32% rise in net
profit to £432 million. However, they rose in the two days
leading up to the announcement and the weakness partly reflected
disappointment that the 9p dividend wasn’t higher.

Check out the London Daily Telegraph’s coverage of yesterday’s action here and The Scotsman also has a reasonable piece here.

Peter Fray

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