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Last Updated: Friday, 7 December 2007, 13:03 GMT
Profile: James Murdoch
By Will Smale
Business reporter, BBC News

James Murdoch
James Murdoch's time at Sky echoed his father's toughness

The media king is not getting any younger, all hail his heir apparent.

James Murdoch, the youngest son of Rupert Murdoch, has been promoted to a senior position at his father's media giant News Corporation.

The announcement has again increased speculation that James, 34, is being groomed to succeed his 76-year-old dad in the top job.

But unlike four years ago, when James' appointment as chief executive of News Corporation's BSkyB satellite television unit sparked a mass of nepotism allegations, this time his promotion has been widely welcomed by commentators.

The key difference is that back in 2003 James was said to be too inexperienced for the top Sky position, he is now widely accepted to have done a very good job during his tenure at the broadcaster.

Especially as his hardball management decisions have more than echoed Rupert's own famously ruthless business streak.

Virgin rows

As James now prepares to take control of News Corporation's operations in the UK, Europe and Asia, he can look back on successfully expanding BSkyB into broadband internet and telephone services, and continuing to grow its TV subscriber base.

Rupert Murdoch
James is a talented and proven executive
Rupert Murdoch

However, far more interesting has been James' battles with UK cable TV rival Virgin Media.

When Virgin Media, then still called NTL, announced in November of last year that it was interested in merging with ITV, Britain's main commercial television station, James pounced to block any deal.

Writing a cheque for 940m ($1.9bn), BSkyB bought a 17.9% stake in ITV just over a week later.

Giving it effective shareholder weight to block Virgin's plans, BBC business editor Robert Peston described it at the time as "an astonishing spoiling tactic".

Virgin was understandably rather aggrieved and complained to UK media regulator Ofcom.

The Office of Fair Trading also launched an investigation, handing its findings over to the Competition Commission, which has the power of censure.

The Competition Commission said in its provisional ruling in October that BSkyB's stake in ITV did restrict competition.

A final decision on what action to take will be made by Secretary of State for Business, John Hutton.

This is grooming James for a larger role longer term at News Corp
Pali Research analyst Richard Greenfield

He could call for BSkyB to be forced to sell its stake, or alternatively allow it to keep the holding, but be barred from having any voting rights.

Whatever the penalty, BSkyB is likely to consider it a price well worth paying for blocking ITV's merger with Virgin.

James has also fought tough with Virgin over how much the latter must pay to broadcast Sky channels.

With this dispute still rumbling after Virgin refused to meet BSkyB's higher prices, Virgin's viewers have since March not been able to access channels such as Sky One or Sky Sports News.

We can only assume that Murdoch senior wants more of the same from James at the News Corporation top table.

"This is grooming James for a larger role longer term at News Corp," said Pali Research analyst Richard Greenfield.

"He has proved himself beyond a doubt over the last several years at BSkyB."

Music background

Born in 1972, James is the youngest of Rupert Murdoch's three adult children from his first marriage, the others being sister Elisabeth and brother Lachlan.

James is seen as the front runner to take over as he is now the only one of the three children still working for News Corporation.

Schooled in New York, James studied film and history at Harvard University, but dropped out in the mid-1990s without completing his degree.

Gaining a reputation as the family rebel, he then set up an independent record company, Rawkus Records, which was eventually bought by News Corporation.

In 1996, he was then appointed chairman of another News Corporation music label, Australia-based Festival Records, also going on to take charge of the company's fledgling internet operations.

Four years later, James was appointed chairman and chief executive of News Corporation's Asian satellite service, Star Television.

He remained there for three years before taking up the top job at BSkyB in 2003, where he became at 30-years-old the youngest ever boss of a FTSE-100 listed company.

"James is a talented and proven executive," said Rupert on Friday.

"He has transformed Sky."

Murdoch son gets key media role
07 Dec 07 |  Business
BSkyB sees rise in user numbers
11 Jul 07 |  Business
Profile: Rupert Murdoch
01 Aug 07 |  Business
Broadband launch hits Sky profits
27 Jul 07 |  Business
Q&A: Murdoch Jr takes BSkyB reins
04 Nov 03 |  Business
Murdoch son wins BSkyB top job
04 Nov 03 |  Business

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