James Murdoch to quit GSK board

LONDON Fri Jan 27, 2012 10:31pm GMT

BSkyB chairman James Murdoch speaks at the BSkyB Annual General Meeting at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in central London November 29, 2011. REUTERS/Timothy Anderson/BSkyB/Handout

BSkyB chairman James Murdoch speaks at the BSkyB Annual General Meeting at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in central London November 29, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Timothy Anderson/BSkyB/Handout

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LONDON (Reuters) - News Corp executive James Murdoch, under pressure from a phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World tabloid, is to quit the board of drug maker GlaxoSmithKline as he spends more time on his new role in the United States.

Murdoch was promoted last March to become News Corp's deputy chief operating officer and head of its international operations, in a move seen at the time as confirming his status as heir apparent to his father Rupert Murdoch's media empire.

But his move to the company's headquarters in New York was delayed by the escalation of the scandal at the now-defunct tabloid, which fell within his previous remit as chief executive for Europe and Asia.

The scandal has cast doubt on his future career and his suitability to continue as chairman of British satellite broadcaster BSkyB, a company he previously ran and in which News Corp owns 39 percent.

News Corp also announced Friday that Murdoch's right-hand man, Matthew Anderson -- head of strategy and corporate affairs for Europe and Asia -- would step down at the end of March to return to his native San Francisco Bay area.

GlaxoSmithKline said in a statement: "James has taken this decision to focus on his current duties as non-executive chairman of BSkyB, and following his decision to re-locate to the United States, as chairman and chief executive, international, of News Corporation."

Britain's biggest pharmaceutical company also announced a raft of other changes to its board: Crispin Davis, Robert Wilson and Larry Culp will step down in 2013. Murdoch will not stand for re-election at this year's shareholder meeting in May.

Murdoch, 39, also recently quit the boards of the publishing units within News Corp's British newspaper arm.

GSK said board members were expected to attend half a dozen two-to-three-day board and committee meetings a year plus travel and other meetings. Murdoch was paid 98,000 pounds in shares for serving on GSK's board in 2010.

At the height of the phone-hacking scandal in July, GSK said Murdoch had made a "strong contribution" to the firm and would stay on its board but added that it would watch investigations into the phone-hacking scandal.

Murdoch took charge of News International only after the phone-hacking had taken place, but has been accused of either leading a cover-up or not taking adequate action to ascertain the scale of the problem.

He has denied all knowledge of phone hacking and blamed many of those around him.

Last week, News International settled a string of legal claims after it admitted that people working for the paper had hacked in to the private phones of celebrities and others to generate stories.

A British parliamentary committee is due to publish a report in the next few weeks over the scandal, which could criticise Murdoch for his handling of the matter.

James Murdoch is also on the board of the auction house Sotheby's, which is listed in the United States.

(Additional reporting by Adveith Nair; Editing by David Cowell)

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