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Sky’s chief executive Jeremy Darroch to step down

Written by on 6 January 2021

Jeremy Darroch is to step down as chief executive of Sky, the parent company of Sky News, after 13 years.

Mr Darroch, 58, is one of the UK’s longest-serving chief executives.

His successor will be Dana Strong, currently president of consumer services at Comcast Cable, the largest broadband and pay TV provider in the United States.

Image:
Sky has tripled in size during Mr Darroch’s time at the helm

Comcast bought Sky for nearly GBP30bn in October 2018 after outbidding 21st Century Fox, the US media giant headed by Rupert Murdoch, which had been seeking to take full control.

Ms Strong has been an executive in the telecoms and media industry for more than 25 years and, earlier in her career, was chief operating officer of Virgin Media – one of Sky’s competitors.

To ensure a smooth transition, Mr Darroch will become executive chairman of Sky, remaining in the post throughout 2021. He will then act as an advisor to the company.

Northumberland-born Mr Darroch is only the fifth chief executive that Sky has had since it floated on the stock market 26 years ago and by far its longest serving.

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During his time at the helm, Sky has tripled in size to become Europe’s biggest multi-platform TV provider with nearly 24 million customers, while launching products including Sky+, Sky HD, Sky Go and Sky Q.

He also took Sky into streaming services with the launch in July 2012 of Now TV and oversaw the company’s takeover, in 2014, of its sister companies Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia.

Sky's next chief executive Dana Strong
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Dana Strong will take over from Jeremy Darroch

More recently, under Comcast’s ownership, Sky has announced plans to build a huge new studio complex at Elstree, Hertfordshire, predicting at least GBP3bn worth of investment in the coming five years.

Mr Darroch, whose shares and share options in Sky were worth a reported GBP30m following the takeover by Comcast, also championed the development of Sky Arts, which recently became available free to air, as well as the independence of Sky News.

Brian Roberts, Comcast’s chairman and chief executive, praised Mr Darroch’s “exceptional leadership” of Sky over 13 years and for the work he had done in integrating the business into Comcast.

He added: “Jeremy has been a terrific colleague to me and everyone at Sky, but I respect his decision that now is the time for him to make a change.

“I am pleased that he’s agreed to stay on to help with the transition to new leadership, and will continue to advise me and the company.

“I am delighted that Dana Strong will be taking the helm at Sky.

“Dana is an accomplished executive with an extraordinary ability to transform, inspire, and drive positive change.

“She quickly made her mark on our US business, driving growth and innovation with an unwavering commitment to our customers.

“Her global experience and vision coupled with her leadership and track record at some of the largest media and telecommunications companies in the world make her the perfect leader for Sky.”

Comcast said its bid came with a series of legally binding commitments on Sky ownership and UK investment
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Comcast bought Sky in 2018

It is not clear whether Mr Darroch, who joined Sky as finance director in 2004 after doing the same job at the retailer Dixons, will be seeking another executive role once he has completed his term as executive chairman of Sky.

He has already had a number of non-executive roles, including spells on the boards of Burberry and Marks & Spencer, while he has been chairman of Business in the Community for the last three years and has also served as a trustee of the Youth Sport Trust.

He is also currently an ambassador for WWF.

Mr Darroch said: “It has been a privilege to lead Sky for 13 years, and an experience that I have looked forward to every day, so the decision to leave has not been easy.

“But with the business firmly settled into the wider Comcast Corporation and a strong plan in place, now is the right time.”

The studio will be built with the backing of Sky's owner, Comcast, and in partnership with sister company NBCUniversal
Image:
Sky has announced plans to build a huge new studio complex at Elstree

Ms Strong was born in Ohio but also has Australian citizenship after spending eight years in the country as chief operating officer of Austar, the satellite TV operator, which was part of Virgin Media’s parent company Liberty Media.

She has also worked in Ireland, another of Sky’s key markets, where she was chief executive of Liberty’s pay-TV and broadband business UPC Ireland.

During her current role at Comcast Cable, Ms Strong has led efforts to make broadband available to low-income American households through the company’s Internet Essentials programme, which to date has connecting more than eight million people to the internet.

She said: “There are few businesses that have the track record of Sky, and I am delighted to have the opportunity to lead the company.

“I’ve always admired Sky’s innovation, brand, and exceptional focus on the customer.

“I look forward to working with this incredible team to continue to grow the business and shape the next chapter for Sky.”