Stop the presses, hold the internet, News Corp issues shock statement about an 81-year-old geezer. The gist: man owning a swag of shares gets support from fellow board members who don’t own as many and don’t have a track record of independent thought. This is the statement the News Corp board issued:
“The board of directors of News Corporation met today and announced its full confidence in Rupert Murdoch’s fitness and support for his continuing to lead News Corporation into the future as its chairman and CEO. The board based its vote of confidence on Rupert Murdoch’s vision and leadership in building News Corporation, his ongoing performance as chairman and CEO, and his demonstrated resolve to address the mistakes of the company identified in the select committee’s report.”
So there. No mention of what the board felt it necessary to meet and issue a statement, so we can help. Try the phone-hacking scandal and the advice comments about The Great Chairman in Tuesday’s 117-page report from the UK House of Commons Committee. Of course, there are two members of the board who would have been the first to put their hands up — sons Lachlan and James (should they have voted?). And, no mention of James Murdoch, the putative No.3 in the company in the statement. As the lead independent director, Sir Rod Eddington would have been responsible for this meeting.
Rupert Murdoch and his family control News Corp with about 19% of all shares and 39% of the voting shares. But they agreed to limit that to about 24.7% after cutting the votes of international shareholders of the voting shares by 50% to avoid breaching US broadcasting limits on foreign ownership. That was a decision of the News Corp board and has helped cement the Murdochs’ control of the company.
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So the statement issued by the board is one of the silliest ever from this company. Would you really expect the board to express a lack of confidence in the man who controlled the board’s future, despite the having independent directors?
Meanwhile, News Corp will release its March quarter profits a week from today (Sydney time). Will Rupert make his first appearance for nine months at the conference call with media and investors after the statement? Or will he duck this one like he ducked the first- and second-quarter calls?
And the Financial Times reported this morning that two US senators had called for an inquiry into News Corp’s behaviour. The statement from the News Corp board was followed by news that Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia to Lord Justice Leveson, who is leading an inquiry into the conduct of the British press, asking for any evidence that “troubling and sometimes criminal conduct” had occurred in the US or involved US citizens.