James Murdoch, the media executive at the centre of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal, is to quit his seat on the board of GlaxoSmithKline, the UK’s largest drug company.
The son of Rupert Murdoch was brought in as a non-executive director and member of the corporate responsibility committee at Glaxo in 2009 but has decided not to seek re-election for the near £100,000-a-year post.
Glaxo insisted there had been no pressure on the media executive to stand down and said the decision had been triggered by Murdoch’s decision to relocate to the US.
Sir Chris Gent, the Glaxo chairman, said: “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.
“On behalf of the board, I would like to thank James for the very strong contribution he has made since he was appointed in 2009 and wish him well for the future,” he added.
The pharmaceutical company said at the height of the phone-hacking scandal last summer that Murdoch was making a “strong contribution” to the firm but added that it would watch investigations into the issue.
Murdoch took charge of News International only after the illegal activity at the now-closed News of the World took place, but he has been accused of either leading a cover-up or not taking adequate action to tackle the problem.
Last week News International paid out financial settlements to halt a string of legal claims after admitting that staff working for the paper had hacked into the private phones of celebrities and others to generate stories.
The Leveson 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.
Last year the 39-year-old came under pressure from some investors to step down from the boards of BSkyB and News Corporation but he retained his positions.
Some questioned three years ago why a media man in his 30s who had spent all his working life inside the family firm should be brought on to the board of a pharmaceutical group.
But Gent said at the time that Murdoch had useful experience of global business and marketing: “He will also be an excellent addition to the board’s corporate responsibility committee, an area where he has shown particular leadership at BSkyB and News Corporation.”