If Rupert Murdoch thought he could deceive News Corporation’s shareholders over the poison pill and then just carry on as if nothing had happened, he was sadly mistaken after receiving yet another wake-up call at the BSkyB annual meeting on Friday in London.
Rupert somehow controls BSkyB as chairman and has installed second son James as CEO, even though the Murdoch family only has a 5% economic interest, reflecting the wonders of gerrymanders, non-voting shares and a minority controlled company (News Corp) having minority control over another company (BSkyB).
However, the proposal to approve another BSkyB buyback that would give News Corp more “creeping control” was almost defeated with 56% of the shares in favour and 46% against. Just as with the celebrated defeat of News Corp’s executive options in 2003, Rupert couldn’t vote the 37% News Corp stake that he controls. He has undoubted control of both News Corp and BSkyB on key resolutions when he can votes his shares, which is most of the time.
Add to that a 5% slump in the BSkyB share price on a disappointing September quarter result, albeit a 14% profit increase to 215 million pounds, and it was a shocking day for Rupert, which fed through into a 29c drop in the News Corp share price to $20.46 this morning.
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Check out the coverage of events in The Guardian, The Independent and even The Times.The Observer produced this interesting comment piece yesterday on the continuing enemy count that Rupert is notching up, whilst his friends and supporters dwindle. The key voting results and Rupert’s address to the AGM is available here.
Rupert headed back to New York after his eight independent BSkyB directors issued a statement attacking the institutions who Rupert himself directly attacked at the BSkyB meeting. His next public engagement will be News Corp’s September quarter earnings release on November 10, then he comes to Australia for the first time since the funeral of his sister Helen Handbury last November.
In what might be his last ever visit to Adelaide, Rupert, his mum and SA Premier Mike Rann will attend a black-tie dinner in Adelaide on November 15 celebrating the first-ever News Ltd newspaper awards, which a cynic might suggest is being established as an alternative to the Walkleys, in which News traditionally struggles against Fairfax and the ABC.
Let’s hope he comprehensively works the room. A total of 94 finalists from 29 of the company’s titles and website have been short-listed, so New Ltd will be spending hundreds of thousands on the night. The next morning Rupert will face shareholders, including Crikey, at the much-anticipated “shareholder information meeting.” There will be much to talk about.