James Murdoch will face another showdown with investors at Sky’s AGM next week as shareholders were urged to vote against his re-election as chair because of concerns about his independence. Institutional Shareholder Services, Glass Lewis and Pirc, which between them advise many of the world’s biggest institutions how to vote at annual meetings, called on investors to voice concerns on excessive pay and a lack of an independent chair at Sky.
The independence criticism focuses on the attempted takeover of Sky by 21st Century Fox where Murdoch is chief executive. Although some shareholders were publicly critical of James Murdoch’s appointment last year, none have yet spoken out of about his re-election ahead of this year’s annual meeting. Glass Lewis, told the FT: “We remain concerned that less than a year into his tenure 21CF [Fox], of which Mr Murdoch is CEO, has made a renewed attempt to acquire the company… We believe that independent shareholders will need an independent chairman to best protect their interests during the bid process and [Mr Murdoch] does not fulfil this role.” Last year, more than half of independent shareholders voted against his election.
Fox, which is controlled by the Murdoch family, owns about 40 per cent of Sky. ISS said no “material steps” had been taken to address shareholders’ concerns about Murdoch’s appointment during the past year.