The irony of Rupert Murdoch launching a sharemarket raid on John Fairfax the day before narrrowly getting a two-year extension of his notorious poison pill has escaped the Australian media.
In fact, Rupert’s indulgent and expensive investment in Fairfax last Thursday was a wonderful diversion from what turned out to be the biggest protest vote in the history of his 53-year dictatorship at News Corp.
The Australian’s New York correspondent David Nason was given a quite misleading leak on Friday morning as follows:
Company sources last night confirmed that Mr Murdoch, News chairman and chief executive, had the numbers for a two-year extension of the poison pill when the issue goes to a vote of shareholders.
Crikey broke the story 10 days ago about powerful proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services recommending a vote against the pill extension and the results demonstrate their enormous power.
The Wall Street Journal called the vote an “an unprecedented referendum on his (Rupert’s) leadership” and you can only conclude that the 43% against was a huge vote of no confidence.
Rupert was always going to have the numbers given that he controls 30% of the voting shares and has the backing of Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal with about 5%, but when you take these two away, the neutral shareholders clearly rejected the notion that John Malone’s Liberty Media should be blocked from adding to his 19% voting stake.
Rupert’s ability to hide bad news is quite extraordinary. The proxy voting results have not been released to the ASX, the New York Stock Exchange, the SEC or on the company’s website and we can’t find a media outlet that has reported more than the 57-43 result. It seems the apparently big protest vote against Lachlan Murdoch’s re-election wasn’t even worth reporting.
Whilst News carried the AGM as a webcast for a month in 2005, this year there is nothing.
We’ll give you a full analysis of the votes, and their historical context, when they are finally released publicly. However, you read it here first folks that never before has more than $8 billion worth of shares been voted against something that Rupert Murdoch wanted.