WORLD EXCLUSIVE MT interview - James Murdoch

Is he his father's son or his own man? The boss of BSkyB seems a bit of both, actually. The cries of nepotism have died down but now he faces a competition commission enquiry into his firm's £940m stake in ITV - plus Ofcom, Virgin and BSkyB expansion to take care of…

by Matthew Gwyther and Andrew Saunders

After a three-year siege outside the Sky walls, MT is finally in. It's a bright, sunny morning at New Horizon Court 1 over in Osterley on Brentford's Golden Mile and we're mooching around in the foyer waiting for our meeting with James Murdoch, the BSkyB boss. He is unquestionably the man of the moment and a white-hot interview subject. His multi-fronted battles with the telecommunications industry, the regulator Ofcom and the EU, and, most visibly, his running brawl with Richard Branson's Virgin organisation have left us all wondering what kind of stuff this guy is made of and who he might engage in a dust-up next.

We're ushered up to the executive floor and past the office of the very absorbed CFO Jeremy Darroch, who looks up from sifting through his morning's e-mails and then looks down again. Plenty on his mind. He's the guy who rustled up £940 million in three days flat for the raid on ITV shares back in December - a haymaker punch that came from nowhere, thwarting Virgin Media in its TV empire-building ambitions. The counter-punch - Virgin's refusal to pay Sky's increased fee for such popular shows as The Simpsons, Lost and 24 and the subsequent pulling of Sky channels from the Virgin cable operation - will probably hit Sky for £50 million in lost fees and advertising revenue annually. Virgin sued, so this high-stakes bare-knuckle fight is now being played out in the High Court.

Sky PR man Robert - tough and laconic - makes us coffee. Then suddenly James whizzes past, deeply focused on an e-mail printout, and disappears out onto the sun-deck. ‘Gone for a cigarette, probably,' shrugs Robert. Then James re-enters, still rapt, and is off down the corridor. Murdoch has taken a lot of persuading to do this interview. His people want him to do it and are confident he'll do well. There's a sense his talent is under-appreciated and under-exposed. Royal Mail chairman Allan Leighton - among whose collection of hats is one labelled ‘non-exec director, BSkyB' - told us: ‘James is very focused and very smart and very personable. He doesn't have the ego you get with some people - good leaders don't need to show how good they are, you just get it. That's how it is with James.'

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