The just-released vote totals from News Corp‘s shareholders meeting today seem to show that independent investors overwhelmingly supported resolutions critical of management — and opposed controversial board candidates including James and Lachlan Murdoch, and Natalie Bancroft. I use the hedge word “seem” because to reach this conclusion you have to make a reasonable, but unproven, assumption based on the tallies the company reported in an SEC filing: that CEO Rupert Murdoch and his ally Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal cast the nearly 47% of the voting shares that they control in favor of management-supported positions. With their votes, all of the board candidates were elected and the company prevailed on controversial resolutions including one that would have required News Corp to have an independent director serve as chairman — taking the position away from Rupert.
But a far different picture emerges if you subtract Murdoch and the Prince’s shares from the total that cast ballots “yes,” “no,” “abstain,” or where brokers didn’t vote. Without the largest shareholders, support for Bancroft drops to 21.2% from 78.3%. James Murdoch slides to 35.2% from 82.2%. And Lachlan falls to 23.1% from 78.9%. Even more striking: Without Rupert Murdoch and Prince, anti-management views likely would have prevailed in the company and shareholder resolutions. The official tally that includes the biggest shareholders shows that 72.1% endorsed the board’s executive compensation. Nearly 84% opposed separating the chairman and CEO jobs. And 70.9% favored keeping the current dual class stock structure.