When shareholders in 21st Century Fox gather at Fox Studios in Los Angeles on November 10 for the AGM, there will almost certainly be a big protest vote against the latest scandal of excessive Murdoch salaries.
We’ve seen some big numbers before, but nothing quite like what the family dropped on Friday night, as the media world was soaking up this Vanity Fair hatchet job on ousted Fox News boss Roger Ailes, which the Murdoch camp quite clearly assisted.
Buried on page 42 of the 21st Century Fox 2015-16 proxy statement were the following annual pay figures for the trio of Murdoch men now jointly running the show.
Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch: US$34.6 million (up from US$27.9 million in 2014-15)
Chief Executive James Murdoch: US$26.4 million (up from US$15.05 million in 2014-15)
Executive Chairman Lachlan Murdoch: US$23.7 million (up from US$330,000 in 2014-15)
Yes, there’s an element of accounting in there with the pension calculations, as this Hollywood Reporter piece outlines, but the figures for one family holding power — courtesy of a gerrymander — are still staggering by any standards.
In Australian dollars, we’re talking three Murdochs for the price of about 20 ASX50 CEOs as they’ve pocketed a whopping $111.5 million in just 12 months — and that’s before we see the pay data from the separately listed News Corp.
Despite having helped destroy almost $1 billion of shareholder value at Ten Network Holdings, Rupert Murdoch lured son Lachlan Murdoch back into the executive ranks in March 2014.
This has proven to be a historically expensive peace deal, even by Murdoch standards.
I have assembled the definitive list of executive pay at News Corp and 21st Century Fox since 1998-99, ranking the top five paid executives from each year, including the percentage pocketed by the Murdoch men.
Even before we see the separate News Corp remuneration data for 2015-16, Friday’s 21st Century Fox disclosures have dwarfed anything we’ve seen before in both quantum and Murdoch family share.
For instance, 2007-08 was a fairly typical year at News Corp when the pay cake was carved up as follows:
Peter Chernin: US$28.8 million
Rupert Murdoch: US$27.55 million
Roger Ailes: US$19.9 million
James Murdoch: US$10.97 million
David Devoe: US$9.73 million
Eight years ago before the GFC struck, the top five at News Corp executives pocketed US$96.95 million and the two Murdochs, Rupert and James, received US$39.77 million — or 41% — of that bonanza.
So how does that compare with 2015-16? Chase Carey is on the way out, but he did receive a tasty US$29.2 million from 21st Century Fox in 2015-16, with CFO John Nallen rounding out the top five on US$12.1 million.
This lifted the total top five pay to a record US$126 million but the three Murdoch men grabbed 67.2% of this pie, easily the highest proportion in the history of News Corp and Fox pay disclosure.
Even though Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch are supposedly busy running News Corp as co-chairmen in an executive capacity, 21st Century Fox shareholders are paying these part-timers like they are full-time superstar performers at the top of their game.
Instead you have an 85-year-old and his eldest son shovelling cash out of 21st Century Fox courtesy of a gerrymandered capital structure and a hand-picked board that features long-serving lead independent director Sir Rod Eddington, who also sits on the remuneration committee.
If 21st Century Fox were listed in Australia, the Murdochs wouldn’t be able to vote in favour of their remuneration report, and there would be strikes and board spills happening on a regular basis.
Go here for the full News Corp pay data since 1998-99, but here is an annual summary of the total pay packages drawn by men called Murdoch from the public companies they have controlled over the past 18 years.
2015-16: US$84.7 million (News Corp data still to come)
2014-15: US$48.1 million (News and Fox combined)
2013-14: US$55.7 million (News and Fox combined)
2012-13: US$45.9 million
2011-12: US$46.8 million
2010-11: US$45.2 million
2009-10: US$33.1 million
2008-09: US$29.1 million
2007-08: US$39.8 million
2006-07: US$32.1 million
2005-06: US$25.9 million
2004-05: US$31.6 million
2003-04: US$26.5 million
2002-03: US$19.3 million
2001-02: US$13.7 million
2000-01: US$13.24 million
1999-2000: US$9.7 million
1998-99: US$6.3 million
That’s a grand total of US$606.6 million over the past 18 years, or an average of US$33.7 million a year.
Measured in Australian dollars and using 2016 figures, it would be fair to estimate that the Murdoch family have extracted almost $2 billion in salary payments and bonuses from public companies over the journey since Rupert took over in 1953.
Surely this must be a record in the history of global capitalism.
The Murdoch cash drain has accelerated in 2015-16 now that the men of the family hold the three most senior executive positions in the company, especially seeing as Fox News boss Roger Ailes has now also been eliminated.
We’ve seen hundreds of billionaires created globally from soaring stock prices based on the value created for all shareholders, but nothing like this Murdoch family pay heist, which has primarily come in cash, not stock (21st Century Fox shares actually declined by 16% in 2015-16.)
And that’s before you get onto the related-party transactions, such as the overpriced $2.8 billion News Corp paid for Queensland Press in 2004, plus the $700 million cash purchase of Elisabeth Murdoch’s Shine Group in 2011, which never went to shareholders for approval.
Meanwhile, Murdoch journalists around the world will no doubt continue to pillory elected officials for their miserable salaries while failing to report the ongoing scandal that is family pay inside the world’s most powerful media empire.
As you would expect, The Australian and the Murdoch tabloids failed to print a word on these record Murdoch pay deals in today’s editions.