When James Murdoch dropped out of Harvard in 1995 to start a hip-hop record label, few would have seen him overtaking his elder brother Lachlan to become heir apparent to their father's media empire.

Just 12 years later however he is to take control of News Corp.'s Asian and European operations in a move that appears to put him bang in line to one day replace his media mogul father Rupert.

News Corp wields influence from Hollywood to Hong Kong and owns Britain's mass-selling Sun tabloid, film studio 20th Century Fox, television network Star TV, publisher Harper Collins and Internet properties such as MySpace. It is also buying the Wall Street Journal.

And the early signs for James Murdoch, 34, who is married and lives in London, are encouraging.

His appointment as chief executive of BSkyB in 2003 was initially met with accusations of nepotism, but he has since impressed analysts and investors by broadening the company from a pure pay-TV offering to include broadband and telephony.

Whether he can match the consummate dealmaking of his father in the long term is yet to be seen, but he has already shown hints of sharing the 76-year-old's approach to business.

During his time at Sky, the company lured 1.7 million customers with its premium content, helping increase revenue by 40 percent, and introduced a broadband service to increase customer loyalty.

His position on climate change - moving BSkyB to be carbon neutral - also surprised many.

But like his father, the younger Murdoch has drawn controversy.


Britain's most famous entrepreneur Richard Branson labeled the Murdoch media empire a threat to democracy after BSkyB bought a 17.9 percent stake in Britain's largest free-to-air commercial broadcaster ITV.

The move was widely seen as a blocking tactic to prevent cable rival NTL -since renamed Virgin Media - from buying ITV.

The younger Murdoch said the purchase was a long-term investment, but it is still being examined by the UK Competition Commission. BSkyB is also under investigation in two separate inquiries, one linked to accusations of anti-competitive behavior.

James Murdoch has accused public broadcaster the BBC BBC.UL of acting like a megalomaniac.

During his time at the Asian satellite unit Star TV, he outraged human rights activists by calling Falun Gong, a spiritual movement outlawed by the Chinese government, an apocalyptic cult in a speech attended by his father.

And he also picked a fight with Richard Li, son of billionaire Li Ka-shing, who founded Star TV before selling it to News Corp. Murdoch ridiculed him for ignoring the market's demand for local, non-English content.

The tall, slim and often smooth James, who once billed himself as a professional cartoonist, took his time joining the family business, building the hip-hop record label Rawkus before selling it to News Corp.

When News Corp's Internet business was founded in the early days of the dot-com boom, James became president.

But as boom turned to bust, he moved on to Hong Kong-based Star TV before joining BSkyB in 2003.

He will take up his new challenge immediately and the world's headline writers are likely to be kept busy.

(Editing by David Holmes)