Tom Gara is a Crikey subscriber who attended his first News Corp AGM on October 10 and was briefed to enter the fray if Rupert shot Crikey down. This is how he saw events unfold.
much longer lasting – two virginities lost in one most interesting day. My
first encounters with both Rupert and the lumbering Crikey giant himself
were definitely an experience not to be forgotten.

The same can probably be said for the few hundred News Corp share holders lucky enough to experience
an uncharacteristically interesting AGM this year, mostly thanks to the
mischievous yet thoroughly professional running stoush between Rupert and
Crikey that was the ongoing point of interest for the meeting.

Kicking off the morning meeting the Mayne Man in the lobby of the Hyatt for
some pre-AGM strategies and prep, the vibe at the place was strangely
non-existent – in fact, if you didn’t know that the AGM of Australia’s
biggest company was being held in the downstairs “ballroom” (commonly known
as a basement) you would have guessed business as usual in sleepy ol’
Adelaide.

Terry Mcrann walking round looking like the lonely guy who is
first to show up at the party was probably the only sign that something
significant was brewing downstairs.

Having been prepped on the 20+ questions Crikey wanted asked in the AGM and
gone through the suicide bomber friendly, Adelaide style, highly informal
registration process, I was into the meeting and chose to sit smack in the
middle of the front row of seats. This is where probably the strangest
realisation of the day kicked in for me – how can security surrounding 3
Murdochs be so unbelievably lax? With little more than confidence &
low-level business attire, a dodgy looking unshaven student (I was referred
to as the “bearded” one by Crikey’s subscriber update on the AGM but I’d say its
more like two weeks without a shave) complete with a bright yellow
Quiksilver shoulder bag and a scuffed up pair of Merrel clogs, managed to be
seated less than a 5 metres from Rupert, and even closer to young Lachlan
and James.

Not a single metal scanner, no bag check, not a search in sight, and here I
was sitting so close to one of the worlds most powerful men that the
multitude of ways a Jihad-minded man in my position could have nailed 3
Murdochs in one sitting was one of the main thoughts I would refer back to
when business at the AGM got boring. But luckily (for me and the Murdochs),
this was rarely necessary – thanks mainly to Crikey and with backup from the
ASA bloke, the AGM maintained a fairly consistent feeling of debate and
discussion.

I could cover all the resolutions voted on and the business side of the
meeting, but Crikey himself went through this in much greater depth than I
could hope to offer. Instead, here is a few of my own reflections on being a
21 y.o AGM/Rupert/Crikey virgin exposed to such a corker of a meeting.

Crikey himself absolutely stole the show and even from a non-reader’s
perspective it was the Crikey questioning and in particular the board tilt
that was the clear highlight of the AGM. If my memory serves me correctly
even Rupert himself only received a brief lukewarm show of applause once
following his 10 minute plus opening address, whereas Crikey received two
decent sized ovations, one predictably following the excellent board
nomination speech, and a spontaneous round of applause following his speech
in opposition to options for non-executive directors.

I agree with Crikey that Rupert’s age is starting to become more apparent.
Despite being solidly professional, witty and quite sharp facing the
questions, he botched some figures horribly quite a few times much to the
embarrassment of the fellow board members who had to correct and help poor
dotty old Rupe through the tough times when his memory (and basic
mathematics) seemed to be failing him.

There was a quite nice friendly bit of jousting going on between Crikey and
Rupert, and Rupert seemed to be in a good spirit about it. When Crikey
admitted that he had no chance of flying back to Sydney on the News Corp jet
Rupert interjected in a flash with “you’re right” and this
brought up a hearty bit of laughter from the masses. Crikey got his own
laugh out of Rupert, when responding to Rupert query of the extent of
Crikey’s News Corp holdings. “A modest amount”, he said, “certainly nothing
like your own interests” which brought another decent laugh to the crowd.
Score : One all.

That Lachlan fellow certainly is a sharp looking young man. I’m not into
“the love that dare not speak its name”, but Lachlan sure is a good looking
young chap and looked more like a model than an executive director, lounging
back on the end of the board table in a sharp single breasted pinstripe
suit, spiked up hair and funky minimalist Patrick Bateman glasses. That
gold-digging O’Hare woman certainly has found herself some decent breeding
stock. Pity about his crap American accent, he sounds like a complete wussy.
As opposed to the director sitting directly on Ruperts right, general counsel Arthur Siskind, who had an awesome hard-ass Brooklyn Italian accent, like you’d expect to hear coming
from an angry cabby in a bad American movie, or the tough Italian cop on his
last day till retirement.

The post-AGM festivities were a little underwhelming. I made sure to slug
down plenty of the free beer, although it was disappointing to see that
local boy Rupert didn’t provide Coopers Pale Ale (a crime that any South
Aussie recognises), and instead doled out some watery draught crap instead.
Even more shocking was that some communist pinko has managed to infiltrate
one of the world’s last great patriarchal organisations and corrupt their
catering policy, with not a spot of red meat or man-worthy food in sight.

Chicken skewers, pita rolls, vegetable pizzas and cucumber/tuna sandwiches
were the order of the day. The greatest injustice of all was to find a quite
decent looking party pie, dunk it in tomato sauce, bite into it and discover
some bloody vego mixture of corn, cheese and asparagus. How very
un-Australian Rupert. That, the lack of Coopers beer and your sons crap
yankee accent should have you barred from South Australia for a long time.

All in all, it was a great experience, and Crikey, you most certainly stole
the show. Sorry for disappointing you and only asking one mediocre question
(a WorldCom inquiry that got shot down in about ten seconds), but by the
time I got up you had already won the crowd over with about 4 smoking gun
questions in a row and I would have looked like a mediocre bearded imitation
if I tried a similar stunt. Walking around the pinko nibbles area drinking
my injustice beer, I heard the words “Stephen Mayne”, “that guy who ran for
the board”, and “that Crikey bloke” spurting from the lips of shareholders
all over the place. A much more consistent theme of conversation post-AGM
than Rupert’s lacklustre year or Lachlan’s swanky haircut.

Peter Fray

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