Friday, 20 October, 2017

In shadow of Fox bid, James Murdoch re-elected Sky chairman

CMA outlines focus of probe into Fox-Sky deal Competition watchdog to look at Murdoch's potential influence on Sky News as part of Sky-Fox merger probe
Theresa Hayes | 13 October, 2017, 00:37

The investors argue that Fox's attempt to buy the United Kingdom group presents a conflict of interest for Murdoch who is both chairman of Sky and chief executive of 21st Century Fox. That included support from largest shareholder Fox, which controls a voting stake of 37.19 percent in Sky.

Last year, Sky's board tapped Murdoch to become its chairman.

Fox, which now owns 39.1% of Sky, is trying to buy full control of the business in a deal that would value it at £18.5bn.

Nearly 22 percent of all shareholders opposed Mr Murdoch and 48.5 percent of independent shareholders.

James Murdoch is poised to defend his position as Sky's chairman at its annual shareholder meeting on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the takeover of Sky is being held up by a United Kingdom investigation into the proposed deal worth £11.7 billion.

The shareholder, Hugh Lawson, said: "I think the board lacks independence".

In response, Martin Gilbert, Sky's deputy chairman, pointed out that Sky's board had formed an independent committee to evaluate the terms of 21st Century Fox's takeover, which he said had met 11 times since the takeover approach was tabled in December previous year.

Culture Secretary Karen Bradley chose to disregard Ofcom's judgement that the deal should only be referred to the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) over concerns about its impact on media plurality, additionally opting to refer the bid on the grounds of commitment to broadcasting standards.

Mr Gilbert was also asked about recent allegations of sexual harassment at Fox News, the flagship news channel owned by 21st Century Fox, which has claimed the jobs of a number of senior executives and personalities at the channel.

Sky's subscriber base swelled by a 160,000 new customers in the three months to late September, up 51 percent on a year earlier, it said in a trading update.

"We've had a strong start to our new financial year with good revenue growth and excellent profit growth as investments we've made come through", said group chief executive Jeremy Darroch. The pay package handed to Sky's chief executive, Jeremy Darroch, quadrupled to more than £16m in the year to the end of June, despite a hefty fall in annual profits at the broadcaster's United Kingdom and Ireland business. The company launched new streaming services in Spain and Switzerland in the quarter.

The group said Game Of Thrones was its "most-watched series ever", while it also hailed home-grown series Riviera after it notched up 20 million downloads.

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