UPDATE, 11:25 AM: A few more odds and ends from the News Corp shareholders meeting that just concluded on the Fox lot: Lachlan Murdoch — Rupert Murdoch‘s son, and a board member — didn’t show….One shareholder asked Rupert whether he’d consider adding a liberal columnist to The Wall Street Journal’s op-ed page. “We don’t interfere” with the editorial side of the operation, he said. He added that the opinion editor is the same one who served before he bought the paper in 2007, “so there’s no change.”…Board member Andrew Knight answered a question about why directors subtracted company costs related to the hacking scandal for the profit figures they used to calculate executive bonuses. Had the costs been included, they could have reduced the bonuses by as much as 5%, he acknowledged….Questioned about his frequent and often controversial comments on Twitter, Murdoch delivered the response he frequently offers his critics. “When you buy the stock, you know what the company is,” he said. “If you don’t like it, don’t buy the stock.”…No questions about, or mention of, reports that James Murdoch might take control of Fox Broadcasting and several cable networks — or about the exit payment for indicted former News International chief Rebekah Brooks.
PREVIOUS, 10:44 AM: News Corp critics who want to dilute Rupert Murdoch’s power had their chance to speak during the company’s annual shareholders meeting on the Fox lot — after the CEO announced that their proposals had been voted down. Julie Tanner of Christian Brothers Investment Services said that it was a “conflict of interests” for Murdoch to serve both as CEO and board chairman. She called the reforms in News Corp’s ethics policies “timid” and warned that without structural changes scandals like the hacking and bribery ones in the UK “will cloud the company for the foreseeable future.” Murdoch barely paid attention to Tanner, but he locked eyes with Ian Greenwood of the UK Local Authorities Pension Fund when he advocated stripping Murdoch of the chairman role. “We want to thank you very much for making us a lot of money,” he said speaking to Murdoch directly, “but this won’t go away as an issue.” Greenwood added, “I’d urge you reconsider the issue .. give investors a timeline in the public arena.” Murdoch said that he and his family are aligned with other shareholders who want to “build a great company.”
PREVIOUS, 10:23 AM: The CEO kicked off his company’s annual meeting saying that News Corp has “acknowledged the serious wrongdoing” in the UK from the hacking and bribery scandals. “We’ve had to work hard to make amends. Very hard.” He noted that General Counsel Gerson Zweifach has led an effort to prevent further scandals by clarifying ethical standards and training and monitoring employee activities. “We have modernized our entire system of compliance from top to botto.m …We can fix any problem by identifying it early.” Murdoch added that the problems in the UK “were not found in our other publications.” He pivoted to note the company’s successes, including the more than 45% increase in the stock value over the last 12 months. He also talked up plans to divide News Corp into two companies — one for publishing and the other for media and entertainment — and said details about management and boards will be ready by year end.
Murdoch said preliminary results of shareholder votes showed that all board candidates were elected, and management got its way with all of the shareholder resolutions — including one that would require the chairman to be independent of management. That’s not surprising: Murdoch’s family controls 39.7% of the voting shares and Rupert’s ally, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Abdulaziz Alsaud, has another 7%. Critics have said that they would make a powerful point if a majority of the other investors support the changes.
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