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 to spend more time on his media roles.
“James Murdoch has decided to stand down from the board with effect from this year’s AGM (in May),” GSK Chairman Christopher Gent said in a statement, as Britain’s biggest pharmaceutical company announced a raft of other changes to its board that would take place at a later date.
GSK said Crispin Davis, Robert Wilson and Larry Culp would also be replaced on the board in 2013.
GSK said Murdoch wanted to focus on his duties as non-executive chairman of British pay-TV operator BSkyB, and as chairman and chief executive of News Corp International.
Murdoch, who also recently quit the boards of the publishing units within News Corp’s British newspaper arm, home to the now-defunct tabloid at the heart of the scandal, is also on the board of the auction house Sotheby’s, which is listed in the United States.
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 and commercial visits. He was paid 98,000 pounds ($153,900) in shares for serving on GSK’s board in 2010.
In July, GSK said Murdoch had made a “strong contribution” to the firm 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 committee within Britain’s parliament is due to publish a report in the next few weeks over the scandal, which could criticize Murdoch for his handling of the matter.
($1 = 0.6370 British pounds)
Reporting by Adveith Nair