Something strange is happening in the Australian media at the moment and it involves a bizarre lack of interest in Rupert Murdoch.

Remember the furore when News Corp introduced its notorious poison pill in 2004 to fend off John Malone, thereby reneging on a court undertaking at the time of the move to America to put it to a shareholder vote.

Well, a group of 12 institutions sued News Corp in Delaware and Rupert capitulated in a settlement earlier this year. The poison pill will now be put to a vote at the News Corp AGM in New York next Friday but there has literally been no coverage anywhere about this major event.

The world’s most powerful proxy advisory firm, Institutional Shareholder Services, has recommended its clients vote against the poison pill extension, largely because Rupert has failed to include a “qualifying offer clause”.

This clause overrides the pill if someone makes an offer for all the outstanding shares. Rupert’s power-obsession is well known so it shouldn’t surprise that he even rejected what is standard in most pills to ensure he’ll never have to surrender control.

John Malone’s Liberty Media is expected to vote its 17% stake against the pill extension so an overall no vote of more than 30% is being tipped, especially now that ISS has told hundreds of institutional clients to do the same.

Rupert will probably be saved by the fact that News Corp shares have performed very well over the past year and yesterday hit a five year high of $28.56, valuing the Murdoch family stake at a hefty $12 billion.

This certainly makes Rupert’s record $37 million salary package in 2005-06 look quite greedy, but the Australian media have also largely failed to report this either, probably because the annual report was dropped out late on Friday, 29 September.

I’m too preoccupied with the Victorian election to go to New York this year but we’re in the market for a proxy if someone fancies an entertaining showdown with the world’s most powerful media mogul on 20 October.

Naturally, it’s late on a Friday night Australian time to minimise media coverage but if you’re in New York just head to the Asia Society and Museum at 725 Park Avenue for the 10am kick-off.

Please email [email protected] if you’re up for it.

Peter Fray

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