Well, it was “mission accomplished” in Adelaide yesterday afternoon – sort of.
The world’s most powerful media mogul, Rupert Murdoch, said “sorry” for the Glenn Milne assault at last year’s Walkleys – but he stopped short of agreeing to pay the $65 physio bill.
Rupert was in a far less combative mood than at the New York AGM four weeks ago, so I decided to lay off as well, only getting up once to ask about his gerrymander and Milne. Besides, this News Corp Adelaide information meeting is completely voluntary so if you repeatedly bag Rupert in front of 400 locals, he might pull the pin on the whole exercise and stick with dealing with just 30 shareholders in New York each year.
The meeting itself involved a halting but wide-ranging 35 minute address from Rupert, without notes or slides.
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When he came to questions, Rupert opened round 10 of our shareholder meeting exchanges with a cheery: “Now there’s a familiar face.”
I started by thanking him for coming back to Adelaide, declaring it to be “shareholder attendance capital of Australia” and predicted a big turn out in the City of Churches for BHP’s annual extravaganza on 28 November.
Rupert expressed surprise that any other major company would come to Adelaide like him and got a laugh suggesting BHP should be headed to Broken Hill. I then gave a brief summary of what happened in New York with the $5 billion protest against the dual class capital structure and asked whether Rupert had heeded the message before moving on to the Glenn Milne question.
At first Rupert almost proudly declared that Milne “hasn’t had a drop since” and the line which got a big run was his joke that “I was thinking of buying him a drink tonight.”
But after that, he did utter the words “We’re sorry about that”, although he didn’t take on the physio bill even though I stood just a few metres away and promised not to storm the stage in seeking recovery.
All up, Rupert got plenty of laughs and I got an apology so everyone was happy and the exchange was done in good spirits. After the meeting, News Corp’s New York-based external relations boss Gary Ginsberg, a former Bill Clinton adviser, came up for a chat and we had 10 minutes of amusing exchanges.
I showed him this edgy four page Higgins flyer featuring Glenn Milne on the front page which is going out to 24,000 letter boxes next week, including every home in Toorak.
Gary toyed with personally paying the physio bill and after at first accepting a print out, later returned it on the basis that it was like being served with a writ and he didn’t want to assume any liability.
Oh well, you can’t win them all.