Campaign group wants shareholders to remove James Murdoch from BSkyB board

Fair Pensions sets up online petition

Campaign group Fair Pensions is calling for shareholders to vote against the re-election of James Murdoch as a non-executive director at British Sky Broadcasting, the UK satellite broadcaster that is 39%-owned by media giant News Corp.

BSkyB is holding its annual general meeting in London on November 1 and proxy voting advisory firm PIRC has already recommended a vote against him.

After News Corp., the largest shareholders are Capital Group entities which have a total stake of just under 8.3% and BlackRock, which has just over 5%.

Murdoch, the son of News Corp. magnate Rupert Murdoch, became embroiled in the phone hacking scandal last year and faced pressure from investors at last year’s AGM.

A total of 18.76% of votes were cast against his re-election at BSkyB in 2011, with major institutional investors such as Dutch pension giants PGGM and APG and the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) and the Florida State Board of Administration (SBA) showing their disapproval.

Explaining its ‘abstain’ vote, PGGM said that “ultimately, the damage caused by the phone-hacking scandal to News Corporation’s reputation and finances cannot be disregarded”.In the wake of the scandal, Murdoch resigned as BSkyB chairman and from his directorships at drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline, auctioneers Sotheby’s and News International, News Corp.’s UK media arm.

Now Fair Pensions says James Murdoch’s performance on the boards of both News International and BSkyB “warrant the end of his tenure at the company”.

“Shareholders and the wider public have a clear interest in his departure”

It has set up an online petition on the issue here and points to a ruling by media watchdog OfCom last month questioning Murdoch’s competence.

“Non-executive directors of major British companies are responsible for oversight of management on behalf of shareholders, including pension savers,” said Fair Pensions CEO Catherine Howarth.

“Whatever Murdoch’s talents as an executive, his failure to ask difficult questions over phone hacking shows he lacks of the requisite skills for this role on BSkyB’s board.

“Shareholders and the wider public have a clear interest in his departure.”