BSkyB confirms Ball’s departure

BSkyB has ended weeks of speculation by confirming yesterday (Tuesday) that chief executive Tony Ball will not be renewing his contract, which ends in May 2004.

He is expected to stand down within weeks, leaving the way open for a successor to be appointed by the board. It is widely expected that this will be Rupert Murdoch’s son James, although BSkyB chief operating officer Richard Freudenstein has also been mentioned as a possible candidate. James Murdoch runs Star TV pay-television company in the Far East.

Ball is understood to be joining BSkyB’s largest shareholder, the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corporation, as a consultant.

Rumours have been circulating about Ball’s future after he cashed in share options in BSkyB for more than &£9m earlier this year. Some commentators have suggested that he would be a suitable candidate to lead a merged ITV.

Under Ball, who joined BSkyB in June 1999, subscriber numbers have doubled to almost 7 million and revenues have doubled to &£3.19bn.

The subscriber churn rate has fallen from 13.4 per cent to 9.4 per cent. Ball has also taken the company through its transition to digital and returned it to profitability after a period of investment in digital.

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