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Sotheby’s Nominates James Murdoch (Rupert’s son) to its Board

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James Murdoch

At its annual shareholders meeting tomorrow, Sotheby’s intends to add a new member to its boardJames Murdoch, son of Rupert, who, according to Fortune magazine, is “the likely successor to take over his father’s empire.” That empire, of course, is News Corp.—the media giant that owns (among many other news organizations), the Wall Street Journal. James is currently News Corp.’s chairman and chief executive for Europe and Asia.

According to Sotheby’s “Board Nomination Process and Criteria,” contained in its Proxy Statement:

In 2010, on the recommendation of the committee, the Board decided to expand the size of the Board from eleven directors to twelve and add Mr. Murdoch as a nominee for election to the Board.

Will WSJ reporters now have to acknowledge the Murdoch-Sotheby’s link when chronicling the Sotheby’s-Christie’s auction wars? Presumably the personal connection will be kept separate from the journalistic coverage.

Speaking of perceived (if not actual) conflicts: Serving on Sotheby’s board for the past three years is Diana Taylor, managing director of Wolfensohn & Co., an investment banking firm. She is perhaps better known as New York Mayor Bloomberg‘s long-time companion.

Auction-house practices are regulated by the city. Purely hypothetically, if New York’s Department of Consumer Affairs were to investigate practices at Sotheby’s, Christie’s or both, Taylor’s connection to one of the arch-rivals could mar the appearance of impartiality.

I realize there’s another side to this argument—that women have a right to their own professional lives and affiliations, regardless of their spouses’ or long-time companions’ professions. It gets a lot dicier, though, when the partner happens to be a government head.

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