James Murdoch

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[London] For an executive who avoids the spotlight, James Murdoch, the new CEO of British Sky Broadcasting Group, gets more than his share of media attention.

Shareholders complained that Mr. Murdoch's BSkyB appointment late last year was pushed through by his father, BSkyB Chairman Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp. owns 35.4% of the U.K. satellite broadcasting company.

But the real speculation centers on the chances that if James Murdoch, 31, does well in the new job, he'll eventually take over from his septuagenarian father. Until recently, older son Lachlan, 32, was the perceived heir apparent, and continues to oversee several News Corp. units in the U.S. and Australia as deputy chief operating officer.

But James Murdoch has established himself as the family expert on digital technology, transforming him from a dark horse into a valuable player as News Corp. plots its course in a digitized 21st century.

James Murdoch dismisses any notion of sibling warfare. "We get along really well," he told Advertising Age during his previous job in Hong Kong. "I think there's more than enough room for both of us" at News Corp. The brothers' only rivalry, he added cheerfully, involves "dumb stuff like drinking."

At BSkyB, James Murdoch is taking on a business with 7 million subscribers that turned a profit in 2003 but still hasn't reached its mass-market potential.

Supporters claim James Murdoch surpassed all expectations in his last job as chairman-CEO of Star Group, News Corp.'s Asian satellite TV service.

Though Star is far from earning back the $2 billion News Corp. has pumped into it since 1991, the Hong Kong-based division reported its first profit in 2002, after James Murdoch decided to streamline operations and focus on Asia's biggest markets, India and China.

a left-leaning murdoch

An articulate, thoughtful and-unlike his father-left-leaning executive, James Murdoch impressed colleagues and clients with his quick comprehension of the satellite industry and his political savvy in dealing with prickly Asian leaders.

His pre-Star record is less spectacular. In 1995, James Murdoch dropped out of Harvard University to found a hip-hop label, Rawkus Entertainment, conveniently acquired by News Corp. He then founded News Corp.'s interactive subsidiary News Digital Media, which was unceremoniously closed after he joined Star in late 1999.