History was made in New York on Friday when Rupert Murdoch was formally re-elected to the board of News Corporation by his shareholders at an annual meeting for possibly the first time in 55 years.
But getting Rupert to admit this historical fact proved impossible as he dodged questions and then called in the current and past general counsels to fudge the issue and attack me for asking “silly questions”.
Have a listen to this fiasco surrounding Rupert’s re-election on the webcast, starting at 28 minutes.
It turned out that 99.5% of shares voted supporting Rupert’s re-election, so I told the world’s most powerful mogul this proved he didn’t need to be a paranoid control freak, hiding behind an embarrassing gerrymander to ensure his family retains control of News Corp.
There was a lot of support for this view, because $4.8 billion worth of stock voted in favour of the resolution to abolish News Corp’s dual class voting structure.
It was the lead news item coming out of the AGM as you see in this summary of all the media coverage.
The plan to open the batting with a question about Glenn Milne was foiled when Rupert went straight to the shareholder resolutions before delivering a chairman’s address or dealing with item one, his re-election.
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Without any warning before the meeting, I was then called to argue the case for resolution eight at 10.17am. Talk about getting ambushed.
At first Rupert resisted disclosing the proxies but then he confessed that most of the institutions wanted to give all shareholders the vote, rather than just 30%. You can listen to the five minutes of exchanges about this on the webcast starting at 17 minutes.
Sure, only 22.9% of the votes cast supported the resolution, but this was after the Murdoch trusts and John Malone’s Liberty Media voted their combined 495 million shares against the proposal.
This means only 126 million neutral shares backed the Murdoch-friendly board, compared with the 184 million that supported the resolution – 59.35% of the independents.
This was quite a revolt, courtesy of the support from powerful proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services and the growing dislike of corporate gerrymanders amongst institutional investors.
I’ll be putting up the same resolution next year when Murdoch won’t have Liberty Media backing him because Malone will be off the register as part of a $13 billion peace deal.
Here is a written summary of the arguments I planned to present to the meeting before instead presenting with no notes.
Check our all the Murdoch campaign videos on The Mayne Report.