By Salamander Davoudi in London and Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson in New York
James Murdoch is stepping down from Sotheby’s, his only remaining board position outside News Corp and British Sky Broadcasting, in the latest fallout from the furore over scandals at the UK newspaper business that came under his direction for four years.
In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the auction house said Mr Murdoch had informed the board on March 14 that he did not intend to stand for re-election at its annual meeting on May 8 “in order to focus on his core responsibilities” as deputy chief operating officer of News Corp.
The decision represents a further effort by Rupert Murdoch’s second son to concentrate on News Corp’s international television businesses, after he stepped down from the board of GlaxoSmithKline and the chairmanship of News International, News Corp’s UK newspaper division.
“James Murdoch has been a valued member of the Sotheby’s board and during his tenure Sotheby’s has benefited greatly from his broad-based marketing and brand management experience, his guidance regarding the company’s strategic initiatives in Asia and his insight into digital media, among other things,” Sotheby’s said.
“Sotheby’s will seek to find opportunities to continue to engage with Mr Murdoch in the areas of his expertise,” it added. News Corp had no comment.
CtW, an investor group that works with pension funds for unions including the Teamsters, had called for Mr Murdoch to leave the Sotheby’s board, which he joined in May 2010, and threatened to rally votes against him at the company’s annual meeting.
Mr Murdoch is awaiting a report from the House of Commons media select committee into the UK newspaper scandal, which is widely expected to contain criticism of his oversight of the business. Investors say his chances of remaining chairman of BSkyB could be affected if that criticism is severe.
Mr Murdoch wrote to the committee this week urging it to stick to the evidence presented to it, and challenging others’ interpretation of what senior News International executives knew about the extent of phone hacking or other illicit practices.