LONDON, (Reuters) – James Murdoch resigned as chairman of BSkyB today to prevent his links to a tabloid phone-hacking scandal from undermining the pay TV group, which has so far escaped the worst of the damage convulsing its controlling shareholder News Corp.
In a bitter blow to Murdoch, until last year seen as heir apparent to his father Rupert’s media empire, James said he would step down from the British pay-TV company where he made his name as a talented executive in his own right.
“I am aware that my role as Chairman could become a lightning rod for BSkyB and I believe that my resignation will help to ensure that there is no false conflation with events at a separate organisation,” Murdoch said.
The 39-year-old is a previous chairman of News International, News Corp’s British newspaper arm that published the News of the World tabloid at the heart of the scandal that was shut down last year.
“As attention continues to be paid to past events at News International, I am determined that the interests of BSkyB should not be undermined by matters outside the scope of this company,” Murdoch wrote in a letter to the BSkyB board.
The youngest son of Rupert had long held off the demands for him to step down at BSkyB, where he earlier overcame allegations of nepotism to prove his critics wrong with an assured four years as chief executive and an expansion of the business.
His conduct now however is under scrutiny by a powerful parliamentary committee that is expected to deliver a critical report in the coming weeks, as well as by the UK TV regulator and a judge-led inquiry into press ethics.