James Murdoch re-appointed by BSkyB despite opposition

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Rupert Murdoch's son James was reappointed as a director of British pay-TV giant BSkyB at the company's annual general meeting on Tuesday, but nearly a quarter of shareholders refused to back him.

Murdoch received the support of 75.4 percent of shareholders, with 17.4 percent opposed and 7.2 percent withheld.

There have been calls for 38-year-old James to stand down from his role as BSkyB chairman since the News of the World tabloid owned by his father's firm News Corp was closed in July amid public revulsion at phone hacking.

Murdoch had been expected to be re-elected as News Corp owns 39 percent of BSkyB, but the number of votes against him was unprecedented.

Some shareholders have said they fear the presence of James on the BSkyB board could damage the company's image because of his links to the phone hacking scandal.

Standard Life Investments, which manages more than six million shares in BSkyB, said it was among those who voted against Murdoch's re-election.

News Corp had to withdraw its $12 billion (9.0 billion euros) offer for the part of BSkyB it does not already own in July after it emerged that the News of the World had hacked into the phone of a girl later found murdered.

During the phone hacking scandal, James Murdoch gave evidence to a parliamentary committee that was later criticised by politicians for being misleading.

Protesters calling for Murdoch's resignation had gathered outside the meeting at a London conference centre.

But inside, deputy chairman Nicholas Ferguson gave a strong defence of Murdoch's chairmanship and said the company had no doubts about his honesty as a result of his evidence to the parliamentary committee.

"Discussions are open and frank, his chairing is very good. He has put in place strong governance procedures. He has a strong strategic view," 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."

Chris Bryant, a lawmaker for the opposition Labour Party who attended the meeting to voice opposition to Murdoch, said after the vote: "It's a stark result for James Murdoch. I didn't anticipate the vote against him to be anywhere near as high.

"Only 1.7 percent of independent shareholders voted against him last year.

"He's got the rules, funds and family behind him -- but I still think, as this row goes on, the writing's on the wall.

"I strongly suspect Sky will have dispensed with his services by this time next year."

BSkyB, which broadcasts live English Premier League football and blockbuster movies, remains highly profitable although in October it said net profits dipped in the first quarter of its financial year despite a solid jump in revenues.

Earnings after tax slid 1.3 percent to £225 million ($351 million, 263 million euros) in the three months to the end of September, compared with the same period of the previous fiscal year.

© 2011 AFP

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