Defying investor opposition, British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC said Monday it had appointed James Murdoch, younger son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, as the company’s new chief executive.
The board of the London-based satellite broadcaster confirmed that Murdoch, 30, would replace Tony Ball, who announced in September he was stepping down.
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. holds a 35.4 percent stake in BSkyB, and the senior Murdoch is chairman of the broadcaster.
Some shareholders opposed the younger Murdoch’s appointment, fearing it could compromise the firm’s independence.
Last week, the Association of British Insurers, which holds about a quarter of BSkyB shares, voiced concerns over the way the company was handling the appointment and about the role of non-executive directors in the process.
Since 1999 James Murdoch has headed News Corp.’s Asian pay-TV service, Star TV, which reported its first profit last year.
His elder brother Lachlan, 32, has long been viewed as heir apparent to his father’s media empire, which includes the New York Post and 20th Century Fox.
James Murdoch’s appointment comes as institutional shareholders in Britain are beginning to flex their muscle. Last month shareholder dissent forced broadcasters Granada and Carlton Communications to drop Michael Green as their choice to head ITV PLC, the new company being formed by their merger. They agreed an outside executive would be selected to head the new company.
The British government has urged institutional shareholders to take a more active role in running the companies they invest in.
Shareholders will have a chance to voice their displeasure at BSkyB’s annual general meeting on Nov. 14.
Ball is widely credited with turning the company around. In August the company announced its first full-year profit since it started digital operations in 1998.
The pay TV service has almost 7 million subscribers and holds exclusive rights to live broadcasts of English Premier League soccer matches.