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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 November, 2003, 01:05 GMT
James Murdoch: A chip off the old block?
James Murdoch
James Murdoch's rebel days are behind him
Satellite broadcaster BSkyB has found a successor for outgoing chief executive Tony Ball.

As widely expected, the top job has been handed to James Murdoch, the youngest son of the broadcaster's chairman and biggest shareholder, Rupert Murdoch.

Mr Murdoch's media empire News Corporation is, of course, no stranger to seeing Mr Murdoch's children at the helm.

His daughter Elizabeth has already done a stint as head of programmes at BSkyB.

But James Murdoch's appointment has irked some City investors, who are concerned that the new arrangement gives too much control to NewsCorp.

There are also some question marks over the business track record of James Murdoch, who, at just 30, becomes the youngest chief executive in FTSE 100 history.

Transformation

Rupert Murdoch has six children from three marriages, including Elizabeth, Lachlan and James, from his marriage to Anna, which ended in divorce in 1999.

Lachlan, who oversees the New York Post and the Fox television service, has always been favourite to head the family business.

But in recent years, James has emerged a serious contender for the succession.

James Murdoch
Born: 1972
Education: Horace Mann High School, New York City, Harvard University (drops out in 1995)
Sets up Rawkus Records
1996: joins News Corporation
1999 One.Tel joint venture with brother Lachlan and James Packer
2000: Appointed chairman and chief executive of Star TV
2001: One.Tel collapses with huge debts
Made executive vice-president of News Corporation
Married to marketing executive Kathryn Hufschmid, one child
His transformation from a bleach-haired college dropout with an eyebrow stud to a sober-suited TV executive has been rapid - and not without controversy.

As a teenager, he was regarded as the brightest of the Murdoch brood but was also something of a rebel.

He first came to public notice as a 15-year-old intern at the Sydney Mirror, the paper where Rupert Murdoch cut his journalistic teeth.

Unfortunately, young James made headlines in the rival Sydney Morning Herald, after he was pictured asleep on a sofa at a press conference.

Internet ventures

At Harvard, where he studied film and history, James edited underground magazines and drew a comic strip for the satirical magazine, Lampoon.

He dropped out of college in 1995, to set-up a hip-hop record label, Rawkus, with friends.

The company was turning a small profit of $2.5m a year when it was bought by News Corporation in 1998.

Now back inside the family fold, James was installed as the head of News Corporation's tiny music division, and continued to contribute cartoons to US magazine Gear.

He took charge of News Corporation's internet operations, where he invested in a series of ventures, including financial website TheStreet, with mixed results.

Short-lived

He is also credited with firing his father's interest in the internet.

At one point, James reportedly tried to persuade Murdoch senior to part with $450m for an internet business called Pointcast, which was later sold to another company for $7m.

Mercifully for News Corporation's shareholders, Rupert Murdoch was a latecomer to cyberspace and his enthusiasm was short-lived.

News Corporation had its fingers burnt in the dot.com crash like everyone else - but not nearly as badly as rivals such as AOL Time Warner and Disney.

Turning point

One internet venture that did get off the ground was ill-fated Australian telecom company One-Tel, a joint venture between James, elder brother Lachlan and James Packer, whose father Kerry, is Rupert Murdoch's oldest commercial rival.

The company collapsed in 2001 amid acrimony and massive debts.

By this time, the newly married James had moved to Hong Kong to take charge of News Corporation's ailing Asian satellite service StarTV.

This proved to be the turning point his career - and the foundation of his claim to be a credible contender for the top job at BSkyB, regardless of his surname.

When James took over at Star 1999, the company was losing 100m a year.

Last year it turned a small profit and is poised for growth, thanks to new channels and distribution deals with India, China and Taiwan.

Pressure

James is said by executives that have worked with him to have an instinctive grasp for marketing pay TV services, and his skill in dealing with the Chinese government has also impressed.

He is also said to be close to his 72-year-old father, whom he calls "Pop", and speaks to him each day on the phone.

But it will take more than a knack for diplomacy and the ear of his father to impress City investors, who own the lion's share of BSkyB.

Rupert Murdoch has reportedly refused to stand down as BSkyB chairman in order to allay concerns about corporate governance.

The pressure will be on James to shake off the "Daddy's Boy" tag and prove he is his own man.




SEE ALSO:
Murdoch son wins BSkyB top job
03 Nov 03 |  Business


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