Today was News Corp.’s shareholder meeting, and in my view it rock-‘n-roll’ed. According to news reports on the scene, there was Rupert Murdoch withstanding a blistering attack from the chairman of the family values-advocacy group Parents Television Council, Leon Weil, who accused News Corp. of carving out a niche in “smutty, vulgar and violent entertainment. Weil singled out the sexual and violent material found on FX cable channel like Nip/Tuck and The Shield. “You should be ashamed,” Weil said. Murdoch responded that those programs aired after 10 pm, when most kids would be asleep. Rupe also said the company was in “constant discussion” with parental groups over ensuring the safety of young users of News Corp.’s newly acquired MySpace. The big news was that shareholders approved an extension of that “poison pill” anti-takeover measure by a rather vote of 57 percent. The slim margin of success indicates shareholder’s discontent with Murdoch, who controls the company by virtue of his family’s 31% stake in the company’s voting shares. But the approval gives Rupe greater leverage over media investor John Malone, the chairman of Liberty Media Corp., whose surprise move to suddenly accumulate a stake (now about 19%) in News Corp.’s voting shares — now at 19% — prompted News Corp. to first adopt the measure in November 2004. Murdoch told shareholders today that “if we can believe Liberty, we’re very close to closing a deal” to swap Malone’s stake for an asset, or assets, owned by News Corp. Murdoch noted that with the poison pill measure extended, “we’re not in any rush.” Last month, Liberty’s CEO said the two companies were still in discussions about several possible transactions, including ones in which Liberty would acquire TV stations from News Corp. or its 38 percent stake in the satellite broadcaster DirecTV Group Inc. Murdoch is still bugged by Malone’s back-door move, telling reporters, “If someone wants to buy an asset from us, they can come in the front door. Liberty Media had voted against renewal of the poison pill and had also withheld its votes from News Corp. directors standing for re-election. Today, Murdoch, 75, was asked to discuss his plans for succession, but said, “No. I intend to be here many, many, many more years.” But he’s said in the past he wants his older children — Lachlan, James, Elisabeth — to lead the company.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.