Does James Murdoch’s BSkyB exit mean that his media career is over? And, maybe, dad Rupert’s too?

It’s no great surprise that James Murdoch has chosen to resign as chairman of British pay-TV company BSkyB in the wake of the phone-hacking and other scandals at his dad’s News Corporation (39 per cent owner of BSkyB).

James has become an embarrassment after his disastrous reign as chairman of News Corp’s News International which has seen the closure of the News of the World, the trashing of the company’s reputation and he himself about to be the subject of a damning Parliamentary Culture, Sports and Media committee which will say that he was either lying about phone hacking at the News of the World or too dozy to respond to clear evidence that it was.

Either way he’s hardly the man that News Corporation shareholders are ever likely to accept as boss-in-waiting of Rupert Murdoch’s media leviathan, however much Rupert wants him to be.

So is his career over?

At News Corporation it probably is unless dad Rupert can produce a few rabbits out of the hat to show that the News International scandales can be contained and that it’s still healthy for a massive New York-listed public company to be controlled by one family via an arcane two-tier voting system, whereby the family control nearly half the votes with less than 20 per cent of the shares.

But Rupert Murdoch, 80, is just about shot too. His UK papers, until recently a profitable if small part of the empire, have destabilised the whole thing and also cost News the opportunity to buy all of BSkyB, which would have added about £1bn a year to its free cash flow. Rupert’s last heroic gesture was to launch the Sun on Sunday in place of the News of the World but, after a good start, that seems to be sinking too.

If it wasn’t for Rupert in place as chairman and CEO (with his powerful voting shares) US shareholders wouldn’t even consider James, currently deputy COO and supposedly in charge of the company’s broadcasting assets which also include Sky Deutschland, Sky Italia and the potentially ginormous Star network in Asia, as a potential boss of the company.

James’s only remaining card is that there doesn’t seem to be anyone else, or anyone else remotely youthful anyway. Rupert’s other children Liz and Lachlan are hardly qualified.

So to answer the question posed in the headline: yes, it is over for James. It’s yet another internet start-up for him.

The bigger story is that this, probably, means curtains for Rupert Murdoch too.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.
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